At least five Los Angeles County hospitals have turned away patients and announced an ‘internal disaster’ due to oxygen supply issues. Los Angeles County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly has said that there are many issues linked to oxygen delivery to patients, however, the issues are not related to an absolute lack of oxygen in the hospitals. She has said that in some hospitals old infrastructure, which pumps oxygen to patients’ rooms, has failed to keep up with the growing number of patients, who require oxygen. Ghaly has said that they are unable to uphold the pressure in the pipe to maintain oxygen delivery at that high level of pressure, which is needed to be sent through high-flow oxygen delivery vehicles. Christina Ghaly has said that due to high flow in the pipes, at times it becomes freezing cool. It disturbs the free flow of oxygen. Los Angeles County is facing this issue at this time when the region has seen an overwhelming spike in the cases of COVID19. The rising numbers of cases have taken almost every hospital in the area to capacity. Around 7000 patients have been hospitalized and 20 percent of them have been admitted to the intensive care unit.
Some hospitals are transferring COVID19 patients down to lower floors to deal with the oxygen supply issue, as it will be simpler to pump the oxygen without getting the pipes frozen. Another challenge that has caused the issue is that many companies are dealing with a scarcity of oxygen canisters, which patients can carry home once they are discharged from the hospital. Without the canister, patients, who need to be discharged from the hospital and free up a bed and health worker’s efforts are forced to stay in the hospital. The officials have confirmed that many hospitals have gone on to declaring ‘internal disaster’ designation due to oxygen issues. Hospitals, which are located in the eastern region of LA County and The San Fernando Valley, are severely hit by the oxygen supply issue.
Initially, high levels of oxygen are required to treat patients, who are dealing with COVID19, these levels can go up to 10 times more than normal usage, said the experts. Health officials have said that hospitals are running out of oxygen quite faster than their normal conditions due to the pandemic. Companies, which supply oxygen as well, are forced to change their process to meet the requirements of hospitals. On the other hand, many hospitals are dealing with the scarcity of space and staff. For example, patients are being treated in tents, in the conference room, and the chapel at Martin Luther King Jr. hospital. At Huntington Memorial Hospital California, nurses, who usually handle one or two patients are now attending three to four patients, said the experts. Medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner has said these issues might force health authorities to take some difficult decisions.