Southern California hospitals are being inundated with coronavirus patients and do not have enough oxygen to treat those who are the most critically ill.
The supply issue led to at least five Los Angeles County hospitals declaring an ‘internal disaster’ on Sunday, which included turning away all incoming ambulances with patients.
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services confirmed the designation, but did not specify which hospitals, only stating that they were in the eastern parts of the region.
County and hospital officials told news outlets that the problem is not just a shortage of the gas itself.
Medical centers also not have enough canister to send home with patients and aging hospital do not have pipes capable of circulating high amounts of oxygen to patients’ rooms.
At least five hospitals in Los Angeles County declared an ‘internal disaster,’ resulting in them turning away all ambulance traffic, due to a storage of oxygen. Pictured: A clinician cares for a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Providence St Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, December 23
Aging hospital pipes are unable to handle the high flow of oxygen which is causing the pipes to freeze, and there are not enough canisters to send home with discharged patients. Pictured: Dr Rafik Abdou (right) and respiratory therapist Babu Paramban check on a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles, November 19
More than 7,400 people are currently hospitalized in Los Angeles County, a nearly 1,000% increase from October 29
Los Angeles County Health Services director Dr Christina Ghaly told CNN the infrastructure issue is two-fold.
Firstly, the high levels of oxygen needed by COVID-19 patients is up to 10 times higher than normal usage, which placed a great deal of pressure on the hospital pipes.
Secondly, this high flow causes the pipes to freeze.
‘They’re not able to maintain the pressure in the pipe to maintain oxygen delivery at that high level of pressure that’s required to be delivered through the high-flow oxygen delivery vehicles,’ she told the network.
‘Because of that high flow through the pipes, sometimes it’s freezing in the pipes, and obviously if it freezes then you can’t have good flow of oxygen.’
One solution includes hospitals moving COVID-19 patients to lower floors, so the pipes can pump oxygen more easily without freezing.
Hospitals also do not have enough canisters to send homes with patients once they are discharged so they can continue receiving oxygen therapy.
Because of this, patients that may have been able to vacate a bed are now forced to remain in the hospital.
It comes as Los Angeles County faces a record number of hospitalizations with more than 7,400 in beds, according to data from the county’s department of Public Health.
Approximately, 20 percent of those patients are being treated in intensive care units.
That’s about a 1,000 percent increase from the 750 hospitalizations recorded in the county on October 29.
A DailyMail.com analysis shows that California was averaging more than 40,000 new cases per day in the week before Christmas, leading hospital workers to prepare to ration care and prioritize treating patients who are the most likely to survive.
Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County public health director, said the situation is only going to worsen in the new year.
‘The rate of community transmission remains extraordinarily high…As cases continue to remain at these alarmingly high levels, hundreds more people are likely to die,’ she told the Los Angeles Times.
‘We all need to give our hospitals a fighting chance to handle the flood of COVID-19 patients that are arriving every single day.’