LA County

Hospitals Near Point of Deciding Which Patients Get Life-Saving Care

As the numbers continue to grow, the fear is that there will have to be triage decisions for life-saving care.

NBC Universal, Inc.

With nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases and 318 new deaths in LA County on Friday, there are growing concerns as hospitals are nearing the point when triaging decisions will have to be made, who gets life-saving care, and who will not. 

The flood of COVID-19 patients across Southern California hospitals means delays in care, awaiting capacity in emergency rooms in intensive care.

As the numbers continue to grow, the fear is that there will have to be triage decisions for life-saving care.

“It certainly raises challenging questions about how you prioritize such decisions," LA County Public Health Chief Science Officer, Paul Simon, MD said.

During a teleconference on Friday, the president of the California Hospital Association likened this surge of cases, now in its third month, to a tsunami.

“We have to change our thinking from conventional delivery of care to crisis delivery of care," President and CEO of California Hospital Association, Carmela Coyle said.

Hospitalizations have hit the 8,000 mark, and they continue to grow at an accelerating pace.

“We are at this point seeing more deaths from COVID-19 than from all other causes," Dr. Simon said.

We are barely into the initial days of the surge of new infections from holiday mixing. 

People 75 and older are considered the most vulnerable population, and today hundreds of residents at an assisted living facility in Anaheim rolled up their sleeves to be among the first to get the coronavirus vaccine. Vikki Vargas reports for NBC4 News at 4 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2021.

To handle this, Coyle sees an urgent need for bringing in more medical staff for transferring non-acute COVID-19 patients and temporarily relaxing some regulations.

“If we don't flex some of these requirements, it means that people will not get the care that they need,” Coyle said.

Methodist Hospital in Arcadia on Wednesday, acknowledged that it is operating under crisis care guidelines, but has not had to ration care yet.

However, many hospitals are nearing the brink of such decisions.

“I think those decisions are already being made, to be honest,” Dr. Simon said.

The incoming Biden administration said Friday, that it will try to speed vaccinations and release some from the reserve, for second doses.

Contact Us