Paramedics Directed to Triage Patients Before Transport

Los Angeles County Public health officials announced that the coronavirus surge was about to get even worse, and paramedic teams were told not to transport patients who have little chance of survival.

According to a directive issued by the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency, ambulance crews were asked to conserve oxygen and only to administer supplemental oxygen to patients whose saturation levels fall below 90 percent. A previous memo was strongly advised not transporting cardiac arrest patients who are unable to be resuscitated in the field.

The memo, dated January 2, 2020 from the Emergency Medical Services of Los Angeles County, specified “adult patients in traumatic and non-traumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest shall not be transported if the return of spontaneous circulation is not achieved in the field.” 

Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s health services director, made assurances on Jan. 5 that the order was not meant to mark any change in actual patient care. It simply prevents crews from transporting patients solely so they could be formally pronounced dead at a hospital, she said.

“The reason for the change is that hospitals across LA County are overwhelmed at this time and transporting a patient who cannot be resuscitated is not the best use of limited resources.”

While hospitalizations continued to rise this week, with the numbers over the 8,000 mark, there were no longer any hospitals reporting “internal disaster” status as of  Jan. 5, which did occur at some locations over the weekend, effectively shutting some facilities off to any incoming ambulance traffic.


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