As the Covid-19 pandemic rages around the world, some are acting behind the scenes to help all patients affected by the virus. They are the nurses, who sometimes work in unusual conditions, as on the yachts of billionaires confined on board.
The sun sets on the coast of Panama while the 85-metre-long yacht Lonian is firmly anchored to the harbour, next to its spectacular annex ship, the Hodor and its 65 meters long. There are five boats on the latter, including a 16-metre chase boat, jet skis and quadbikes. Hodor also has its own hospital, with a private nurse and a staff of 20.
Most yachts over 90 metres long have a private mini hospital, or at least an infirmary. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, agencies have struggled to keep up with demand, as the world’s wealthiest have used private medical personnel. While the owners of the larger yachts are already technically isolated, they lack medical protection.
Several experts have assured us that many yachts are currently going to private islands, far from the crowds and the epidemic, if they are not already there. Alex Haubrich, who works at Yachtie World, explains: “The Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the yachting industry. Many crew members have lost their jobs and are stranded away from their homes and families. Some owners use their vessels to apply social distance, which is understandable, but often only half of the crew is on board. This means that the demand for the remaining crew members is increasing. Many employees panic because they don’t know if their jobs and their health are at risk.”
As maritime traffic is increasingly restricted, many yachts are stranded at the dock, while territorial waters, including the French Mediterranean Sea, are prohibited from berthing. Antigua and Barbuda has banned passengers from North America and Europe from entering its territory. The Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands have limited their activities to essential services, and St. Martin has closed its waters to all foreign vessels, including yachts. In addition, no one is allowed to disembark for any reason.
A recruitment agency specializing in yacht services, Wilson Halligan, is currently looking for nurses, but warns that the position is not as glamorous as it may seem, as they also often have to perform the duties of hostess: “A nurse/hostess is supposed to provide medical services on board and hold the infirmary. This includes inventory, equipment ordering and inventory control. Depending on the health of the passengers, they may be required to perform certain medical tasks; otherwise, they stand ready to intervene. Often, two nurses work together on board, and on larger ships, a doctor is sometimes even present.”
Although the yacht nurse is part of the lower crew, she often performs a dual function and assists in maintenance and service. A mission usually consists of five months of service and one month of rest. A private nurse who works on board a yacht (and wishes to remain anonymous) tells us that she had to take care of the ship’s owner, who was suffering from a traumatic injury while they were too far from shore to be evacuated by helicopter.
Fortunately, the yacht she is working on is equipped with an X-ray machine and a hyperbaric chamber (a compartment with higher pressure, which increases the speed of tissue healing). While the vessel was en route to shore to transfer the owner to the hospital, the nurse was able to stabilize the owner with an intravenous. To work on a yacht, you must hold the ENG1 certificate and have at least two years of experience.
Some of the most famous yachts, such as billionaire Roman Abramovich’s Eclipse and billionaire David Geffen’s Rising Sun, feature equipped infirmaesses and private on-call nurses. Others use ancillary ships for this type of equipment, such as the Game Changer, the McCarthur Explorer Yacht, the Alexander, and the Intrepid.
According to a testimonial by Chris Caswell in Boat International: “Most yachts also use telemedicine services, which allow them to follow up with an emergency room doctor. Many yachts are also equipped with monitoring devices, so that the doctor can have access to the patient’s data, even thousands of kilometres from the yacht.”
As the global health crisis rages, medical personnel are among the heroes contributing to the war effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether in a hospital or off the Caribbean, nurses look after the health of their patients, at the risk of their own.