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L.A.Ambulance Staff Refuse to Transfer Patients With No Chance of Survival To Hospital

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Due to the COVID surge

LOS ANGELES, CALIF.--As the surge of COVID-19 cases increases exponentially across the U.S., the hospitals in the Los Angeles metro area have been particularly hit hard. There are now more than 7,600 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in Los Angeles County. Ambulance crews in the area have been  Newswiseadvised to cut back on their use of oxygen and to not bring to hospitals patients who have virtually no chance of survival in order to increase capacity and triage care to focus on the sickest patients.

According to a memo sent out by the L.A. County Emergency Medical Services Agency, ambulance staff has been told not to transfer patients who have virtually no chance of survival. This includes patients who's heart has stopped. A directive sent on Monday instructs ambulance crews to conserve oxygen by administering it only to patients who have oxygen saturation levels below 90%.  According to the Los Angeles Times, those with slim odds of survival were transported to the hospital in pre-pandemic times.

This kind of medical "rationing" can be a particular concern to patients with disabilities, according to University at Buffalo disability history expert Michael Rembis.

"There have been stories in the media that various states were trying to implement guidelines around prioritizing different patients, with some placing people with intellectual disabilities and traumatic brain injuries at the bottom of the list of people who should be served.”

Not all COVID-19 patients need to be hospitalized, of course. In fact, most patients do better if they stay at home according to a study published in October in the Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians Open. The study found patients who were treated and sent home to recuperate, recovered within a week.

"What we learned from the study is that outpatient management is safe for most COVID-19 patients who have normal vital signs and no comorbidities," said first author Carl Berdahl, MD. "However, patients should be instructed to return to the Emergency Department for worsening symptoms, including labored breathing."