Amid COVID surge, L.A. ambulances told to leave some patients behind

Nightmare scenarios have become reality in Los Angeles County as mounting COVID-19 cases overwhelm emergency rooms. The Emergency Medical Services Agency (EMS) has now directed ambulance crews not to transport patients with little chance of survival to hospitals, including cardiac patients who can’t be resuscitated in the field. Emergency personnel have also been told to conserve oxygen supplies, which have been running dangerously low in Los Angeles County.

“Effective immediately, due to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on EMS and 9-1-1 Receiving Hospitals, adult patients (18 years of age or older) in blunt traumatic and nontraumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) shall not be transported [if]return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) is not achieved in the field," the agency said in a memo.

EMS crews were also told to limit administration of supplemental oxygen to patients with oxygen saturation below 90%. Local officials have asked people to avoid calling 911 unless it is absolutely necessary.

Ambulances have been waiting hours outside of hospitals due to lack of emergency room beds, supplies, and personnel. The county reported 13,512 new cases, 7,898 current hospitalizations, and 224 new deaths on Tuesday.