Navy Converting Oil Tankers Into Hospitals

United Press International

Two oil tankers are being converted into floating Navy hospitals, the first such ships in 10 years.

The tankers, each the length of three football fields, are being converted at National Steel & Shipbuilding Co. in San Diego, where they were built in 1975.

As 1,000-bed floating hospitals, they will be the largest such facilities in the world, the Navy said. They will be available for wartime use and for assistance following natural disasters.

The Navy currently does not have a hospital ship. The last one in service was built in 1944 and was decommissioned twice, the last time in 1975.

Fred Hallett, a senior vice president at Nassco, said work on the conversions is under budget and seven months ahead of schedule. The project will cost about $400 million rather than the Navy's estimated $560 million, he said.

One of the ships is scheduled for completion in July, the other by December, 1986, Hallett said. They will be stationed on the coasts at sites to be determined.

Each ship will have 1,508 Navy medical personnel on board during a mission and will be equipped with 12 operatings rooms, a laboratory, recovery room and several wards.

They also will have a library, gymnasium, physical therapy center, dental and eyeglass centers, and beauty and barber shops.

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