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California hospitals turn patients away due to oxygen supply issues

A new spike in COVID-19 cases in California has forced hospitals to turn patients away.

Memorial Hospital registered nurse Delaney Russom readies to administer medicine to a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Bakersfield, Calif.
Memorial Hospital registered nurse Delaney Russom readies to administer medicine to a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Bakersfield, Calif.
Alex Horvath, The Bakersfield Californian via Associated Press

California hospitals have turned patients away due to oxygen supply issues.

  • In fact, five hospitals in Los Angeles County declared an “internal disaster” due to the lack of oxygen and the fact that they had to start rationing care, according to CNN.

Why is this happening?

Dr. Christina Ghaly, Los Angeles County Health Services director, told CNN that the hospitals are facing an oxygen issue due to aging infrastructure that can’t keep up with the high number of patients being admitted.

  • “They’re not able to maintain the pressure in the pipe to maintain oxygen delivery at that high level of pressure that’s required to be delivered through the high-flow oxygen delivery vehicles,” Ghaly said. “Because of that high flow through the pipes, sometimes it’s freezing in the pipes, and obviously if it freezes then you can’t have good flow of oxygen.”

The bigger picture:

California has seen a significant spike in COVID-19 cases over the last month, leading to record hospitalizations that have crushed hospitals there, The New York Times reports.

  • In fact, patients have been sent to gift shops and lobbies to make space for new patients, as I wrote about for the Deseret News.
  • “When you run out of capacity, physicians and bioethicists in these hospitals will need to decide which patients are salvageable — potentially salvageable — and which patients aren’t,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner.