‘We’re getting crushed’: Los Angeles doctor warns hospitals may run out of room for ER patients

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LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – With overcrowded Los Angeles County hospitals already scrambling to add more beds, a doctor on Friday issued a grim warning: “If we don’t stop the spread, our hospitals will be overwhelmed. If you have a heart attack, if you get into a car accident, if you fall from a ladder or have a stroke, we may not have a bed for you.”

“I’m not going to sugarcoat this. We are getting crushed,” said chief medical officer at LAC + USC Medical Center Dr. Brad Spellberg. “For most of the days of last week, we’ve had zero ICU beds open in the morning and we have had to scramble.”

And with the health care staff shortages, the doctor said that if the county doesn’t stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus, hospitals will be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

“L.A. County is now moving towards becoming the epicenter of the pandemic,” Spellberg said at a briefing Friday.

As of Friday morning, there were just 699 available hospital beds across L.A. County, 69 of them in intensive care units, Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said.

The number includes beds that 911-call receiving hospitals report as being available and staffed.

“When ambulance offload times are up to four hours, six hours, eight hours — that’s a crisis,” Ghaly said. “When hospitals’ emergency departments are full, that’s a crisis… that’s really the point that we’re at.”

Ghaly described hospitals adding three beds to a room that was designed for two to treat more patients. But adding more beds or creating field hospitals won’t help if there aren’t enough health care professionals to staff them, she explained.

“This isn’t just about someone who needs critical care in the ICU because they can’t breathe, they’re literally suffocating with COVID,” Ghaly said. “When the hospital is overwhelmed, it affects everybody.

“It affects you if you have a traumatic injury or a fall, if you’re in a car accident, if you need emergency surgery… this will affect everybody, and it’s a crisis for us all,” she said.

As of Thursday, there were 4,864 people with COVID-19 hospitalized throughout the county, 20% of them in intensive care units.

Most concerning is that the skyrocketing hospitalization numbers came from the spike in activity and infections during the Thanksgiving holiday, Ghaly said.

The county recorded a whopping 14,418 new infections and 102 new deaths Thursday, bringing the countywide total to 580,325 cases with 8,664 deaths.

“This is the time to stay home,” she said. “I know it’s not the holiday season that anyone wants. I know that there’s many fun things that people would rather be doing with their lives. But this is a crisis point for Los Angeles County.”

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