Los Angeles County is fighting a war against COVID for weeks now and new instructions given to ambulance drivers are grim.
In the last month, the county has DOUBLED its number of infections, from about 400,000 cases on November 30 to more than 800,000 cases on January 2.
This has translated to a deluge of COVID patients, overwhelming hospitals and plunging intensive care unit capacity ZERO across the area. There are more than 7,600 people now hospitalized with COVID in the county. 21% of those are in the ICU.
There are just no hospital beds available, so ambulance crews were given guidance not to transport patients with little chance of survival. And the patients who are transported often have to wait hours before a bed is available.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said,
“Hospitals are declaring internal disasters and having to open church gyms to serve as hospital units.”
A person is dying of the virus every 15 minutes. And it’s going to get worse.
Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said,
“The increases in cases are likely to continue for weeks to come as a result of holiday and New Year’s Eve parties and returning travelers.
We’re likely to experience the worst conditions in January that we’ve faced the entire pandemic, and that’s hard to imagine.”
LA hospitals are now at capacity and many medical facilities don’t have the space to take in patients who do not have a chance of survival. Patients whose hearts have stopped despite efforts of resuscitation, the county EMS said, should no longer be transported to hospitals.
The agency said in a memo issued to ambulance workers last week said,
“Effective immediately, due to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on EMS and 9-1-1 Receiving Hospitals, adult patients (18 years of age or older) in blunt traumatic and nontraumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) shall not be transported [if]return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) is not achieved in the field,”
Given the acute need to conserve oxygen, effective immediately, EMS should only administer supplemental oxygen to patients with oxygen saturation below 90%.”
And even after they arrive at hospitals, EMTs often have to wait outside for hours. Hospitals don’t have enough beds to take the patients in.
“We are waiting two to four hours minimum to a hospital and now we are having to drive even further… then wait another three hours.”
And when ambulances are waiting at hospitals, there are fewer of them to respond to other 911 calls that are coming in, leading to delayed responses. Residents have been instructed NOT to 911 unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Dr. Marc Eckstein, commander of the LA Fire Department EMS bureau, told KABC.
“I think this next four-to-six week period is going to be critical with our system being taxed.”
⚠️NEXT LEVEL BAD—this radical change in ambulance 🚑 rules means if an EMT paramedic cannot resuscitate a heart beat, a patient will not be transported to any hospital in Los Angeles.— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) December 31, 2020
➡️This is worse than rationing 🏥 care. We have reached this. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/DllJMTKdWT
(Photo, YouTube; via CNN)