US COVID cases: Ambulance workers told to stop transporting patients likely to die amid spike

Imagine having cardiac arrest and getting picked up by an ambulance that won’t take you to a hospital.

Or having a medical emergency and languishing outside an emergency room for hours.

This is what Los Angeles County faces as the onslaught of COVID-19 devastates the community – including those without coronavirus.

“Hospitals are declaring internal disasters and having to open church gyms to serve as hospital units,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said.

“Our health care workers are physically and mentally exhausted and sick.”

Solis called the situation a “human disaster.”

Nurse Jeanette Pimentel checks on 68-year-old-coronavirus patient Pedro Luera. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

More than 7600 people are hospitalised with COVID-19 in just Los Angeles County.

And 21 per cent of them are in intensive care units, officials said Monday.

Every 15 minutes, one person dies from COVID-19, Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said.

Now, ambulance crews in LA County have been told not to take patients with little chance of survival to hospitals.

“This order that was issued by the county emergency medical services really is very specific to patients who suffered from a cardiac arrest and are unable to be revived in the field,” said Dr. Jeffrey Smith, chief operating officer of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“Those patients have a very low rate of survival each if they are transported to the hospital.

“So at this time, it is deemed to likely be futile.”

Sailors assigned to the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) treat the first patient from Los Angeles medical facilities March 29.
Sailors assigned to the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) treat the first patient from Los Angeles medical facilities March 29. Credit: Handout/Getty Images

Who gets taken to a hospital, and who doesn’t

The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency issued a memo last week to ambulance workers.

“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,” the agency said.

If the patient has no signs of breathing or a pulse, EMS will try to resuscitate the patient for at least 20 minutes, the memo said.

If the patient is stabilised during that time, they would then be taken to a hospital.

But if the patient is declared dead at the scene or no pulse can be restored, paramedics will not take the patient to the hospital.

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