L.A. EMS workers told not to transport patients who likely won’t survive to hospitals

Hospitals are so overwhelmed by coronavirus patients that the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency issued directives that ambulances should stop transporting patients to hospitals if they have virtually no chance of surviving, including those whose hearts and breathing have stopped and who couldn’t be resuscitated by paramedics.

The agency also issued a directive Monday directing ambulance crews to administer less oxygen. Supplies have been strained because of the pandemic.

CBS Los Angeles reports a memo sent out on December 28 by the medical director of L.A. County’s Emergency Medical Services Agency, Dr. Marianne Gausche-Hill, addressed how first responders should treat stroke and heart attack patients. The memo said a patient should be treated at the scene first and have a pulse during resuscitation before transporting them to the hospital.

Since the memo began circulating online, many people have questioned whether first responders would deny taking stroke and heart attack patients to the hospital because of the coronavirus surge.

Gausche-Hill told CBS Los Angeles that officials continue to do all they can to save patients’ lives at the scene and the hospital, as they always have.

“We are not abandoning resuscitation,” Gausche-Hill said. “We are absolutely doing best practice resuscitation and that is do it in the field, do it right away… What we’re asking is that — which is slightly different than before — is that we are emphasizing the fact that transporting these patients arrested leads to very poor outcomes. We knew that already and we just don’t want to impact our hospitals.”

Treating heart attack and stroke patients at the scene instead of on the way to the hospitals can increase chances of survival, Gausche-Hill said.

Some older hospitals in Southern California have oxygen systems that can’t handle the demand, and the state is contracting with the Army Corps of Engineers to upgrade the systems. Giant oxygen containers may also be placed in hospital parking lots as back ups.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Monday reported 9,142 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 77 additional deaths, bringing countywide totals to 827,498 cases and 10,850 deaths.

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