California coronavirus: Oxygen supply problems forced five LA hospitals to declare ‘internal disaster’

According to dr. Christina Ghaly, director of health services in Los Angeles, says there are several problems with oxygen delivery to patients, but overall, the problem is not an absolute shortage of oxygen.

In some area hospitals, outdated infrastructure pumping oxygen to patient rooms cannot keep up with the high number of patients needing oxygen.

“They are unable to maintain the pressure in the pipe to maintain oxygen delivery at the high pressure required to deliver through the high-flow oxygen delivery vehicles,” Ghaly said. “Because of the high current through the pipes, it sometimes freezes in the pipes, and if it freezes, you obviously can’t have a good oxygen flow.”

The oxygen issues come because Los Angeles County is seeing an almost overwhelming surge of Covid-19 patients taking almost every hospital to its capacity. Nearly 7,000 patients are currently admitted to the hospital, with about 20% of those in intensive care units.

California has seen a marked increase in coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths over the past two months. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the state has averaged more than 40,000 new coronavirus infections each day during the week before Christmas.

Lack of oxygen containers

A patient was lying on a stretcher in the hallway of the overloaded emergencies at Providence St. on December 23, 2020.  Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California.

To solve the oxygen supply problem, some hospitals move Covid-19 patients down to lower floors in the medical center, making it easier to pump the oxygen through pipes without freezing.

Another challenge, according to Ghaly, is that several stock companies have a shortage of actual oxygen containers that patients can take home after being discharged from the hospital. Without the containers, patients who could otherwise go home – and make the time of a bed and health workers available – have to stay in hospital.

Other hospitals see shortage of space and staff.
Record Covid-19 hospitalizations in the US may soon force health experts to ration

At the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, for example, patients are treated in tents outside the hospital, in a conference room and in the chapel. Gurneys are included in the gift shop. Ration care may be next, said dr. Elaine Batchlor, chief executive of the hospital, said Monday.

“If we continue to see an increase in the number of Covid patients, we could be forced to do something that really bothers us all as health professionals, even to think about it,” she said.

At Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California, nurses who normally care for one or two patients now take three or four, Drs. Kimberly Shriner, a specialist in infectious diseases, told CNN on Sunday.

“We have a limited number of fans, we have a limited number of ICU beds,” Shriner said, adding that a team with a bio-ethicist, a community member, a doctor, a nurse and an administrative leader will decide how to divide the resources. if it comes down to it.

These issues can lead to some difficult decisions, said dr. Jonathan Reiner, medical analyst at CNN, said.

“If you do not have respirators, you do not have nurses to care for patients, you do not have ICU beds, we will have to have these terrible discussions with families, therefore people have to stay at home, and when they go out, they have to wearing a mask, ‘Reiner said.

CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.