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article imageCalifornia hospitals look at rationing care as virus surges

By Karen Graham     Dec 21, 2020 in Health
California's overwhelmed hospitals are setting up extra makeshift beds for coronavirus patients, and some hard-hit Los Angeles County hospitals may have to start rationing life-saving care as more patients flow in.
The number of people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 infections has more than doubled from a previous peak, reached in July. A number of Los Angeles County hospitals are drawing up emergency plans as a state model forecasts the patient total could hit 75,000 patients by mid-January.
Plans for rationing care are not in place yet, but they need to be established because “the worst is yet to come,” said Los Angeles County’s health services director, Dr. Christina Ghaly, according to the Associated Press.
Even though shipments of the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccine are rolling out for many health care workers and nursing homes across the country, it will be months before the vaccine will be available to the general public. Until then, four hospitals run by Los Angeles County are weighing what to do if they cannot treat everyone because of a shortage of beds or staffers.
Just recently, a document was circulated among the doctors at the four hospitals, proposing that instead of trying to save every life, their goal could shift to saving as many patients as possible — meaning those less likely to survive would not get the same kind of care.
“Some compromise of the standard of care is unavoidable; it is not that an entity, system or locale chooses to limit resources, it is that the resources are clearly not available to provide care in a regular manner,” said the document obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Just three days ago, Digital Journal reported that while ICU bed capacity in Los Angeles County was at 0 percent, California's remaining ICU capacity was just 0.7 percent in the San Joaquin Valley, 11.3 percent in the Sacramento area, and 13.1 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Overall, the state’s ICU capacity was reduced to just 2.1 percent on Sunday. Some hospitals have canceled non-essential elective surgeries, such as hip replacements, that might take up beds that could soon be needed for COVID-19 patients.
Nurses are saying the crush of patients is so bad that they have less time to attend to patients, many of whom are sicker than they have ever been.
“The more patients we have, the more there’s a risk of making a mistake, especially if we’re rushing,” said Wendy Macedo. a nurse at UCLA Health Santa Monica Medical Center. ”Obviously we’re trying to avoid that, but we’re only human.”
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