On Friday, the office of California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom announced that officials had teamed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to update oxygen-delivery systems at six Los Angeles County hospitals.
The move comes as the Los Angeles Times reports “the dreaded post-Christmas spike in coronavirus cases appears to be materializing” in America’s most populated county, and ICU capacity in the Southern California region reportedly remains fixed at 0%. According to the Times, “hospitals have gotten so backed up that patients have had to wait outside in ambulances for up to eight hours.”
“By working to upgrade challenged oxygen delivery systems at these older hospitals we can improve the ability to deliver life-sustaining medical care to those who need it,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
The Army Corps of Engineers works to strengthen national security by, in part, building and maintaining infrastructure. The federal agency would begin to assess the situation as early as Saturday, reports said, as some hospitals have had problems maintaining oxygen pressure amid the latest COVID-19-related surge of admissions.
The L.A. Times reported that earlier this week, “several hospitals declared internal disasters and temporarily turned away all ambulance traffic because their internal oxygen systems began to buckle beneath the high demand of air flow needed by patients whose lungs had been ravaged by the coronavirus.”
The outlet also noted “a chronic shortage” of portable oxygen tanks, which recovering patients discharged can take home to free up hospital space for sicker people who have contracted the respiratory disease.
Amid 'viral tsunami,' Army Corps of Engineers will aid L.A. hospitals facing oxygen problems https://t.co/1rrfin6Elf
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 1, 2021
As the Times reported:
The team of design and construction experts from the Corps will evaluate six hospitals – Adventist Health White Memorial in Boyle Heights, Beverly Community Hospital in Montebello, Emanate Health Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina, Lakewood Regional Medical Center, Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City and PIH Health Hospital in Downey – and then oversee upgrades where they’re deemed necessary. …
The basic problem is that patients, suffocating from their inflamed lungs, are demanding such a high flow of oxygen to the extent that some hospitals cannot meet the demand with existing infrastructure.
“Running low of oxygen and oxygen tanks is an issue,” said Cathy Chidester, director of the L.A. County Emergency Medical Services Agency.
Chidester recently described “the surge of patients” as “kind of a hidden disaster.”
“It’s not a fire. It’s not an earthquake. It’s not a train wreck that’s right in the public view,” Chidester said. “It’s all happening behind the doors of households and hospitals.”
More than ten million people reside in L.A. County. According to recent data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, it has by far had the most confirmed coronavirus cases (790,582) and deaths (10,552) than any county in the U.S. The Times reports that L.A. County is currently averaging 16,077 new coronavirus cases a day, projecting it will soon record its 800,000th case since the pandemic began.
“We’re experiencing extreme conditions in L.A. County,” said L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “Our hospitals continue to be overwhelmed. As more and more people are rushed to hospitals, the tragic fact is that hundreds more people will die every week from COVID-19. These trends, unfortunately, will continue into January.”