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LA ambulance crews told not to transport some patients with low chance of survival amid COVID-19 surge

LA ambulance crews told not to transport some patients with low chance of survival amid COVID-19 surge
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Los Angeles County ambulance crews are being told not to transport some patients with a low chance of survival to hospitals and to conserve oxygen amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

A memo from the county Emergency Medical Services Agency tells crews not to bring patients in cardiac arrest to hospitals unless circulation can be restored in the field "due to the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on EMS and 9-1-1 Receiving Hospitals."

A separate memo tells crews not to administer oxygen unless a patient's oxygen saturation falls below 90 percent "given the acute need to conserve oxygen."

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The stark memos come as Los Angeles is being battered by the pandemic and hospitals are deluged by patients.

The county health department said Monday there were 7,697 people in hospitals with coronavirus, a massive spike from the 791 hospitalized in early November.

The health department also warned that overwhelmed hospitals are having more difficulty treating non-COVID-19 patients, including those with strokes or heart attacks.

"The high number of COVID-19 patients in our hospitals is distressing not only for those who have COVID-19, but for all others in the County who need acute care during this time," the county health department said in a statement. "People who have a stroke or heart attack or who experience a traumatic injury from a car crash are finding it more difficult to access care compared to usual times."

"Everyone should stay home whenever possible," the department added, urging residents to do their part to slow the spread of the virus and prevent a further surge at hospitals.

Marianne Gausche-Hill, medical director for the county emergency services agency, sought to offer some reassurance, telling CBS2 that "we are not abandoning resuscitation," noting it will still be done in the field.

"We are absolutely doing best practice resuscitation and that is do it in the field, do it right away," she said.