Los Angeles hospitals forced to use gift shops to treat COVID patients

Los Angeles County hospitals have hit their breaking point amid the COVID-19 surge, resulting in ambulances being turned away and gift shops being turned into makeshift treatment rooms.

On Sunday, five areas hospitals were forced to declare "internal disasters" after they were unable to provide adequate oxygen supplies into patients' rooms. Nearly 7000 people are currently hospitalized for COVID in LA County, with 20% of those patients in intensive care. The problems with the oxygen supply aren't so much an inventory problem (though that is also becoming an issue) as it is an infrastructure problem. COVID patients require high pressure oxygen delivery which is causing the pipes in older hospitals to freeze and reducing the flow. Hospital staff have begun moving patients to lower floors, turning gift shops and conference rooms into patient rooms and reducing the amount of travel time for the oxygen.

With a post-holiday increase in cases expected, LA County will soon reach the grim milestone of 10,000 COVID deaths. On Sunday, 94% of hospitals in LA County were on divert, forcing EMS to search for other places to bring patients to. LA County health services director Dr. Christina Ghaly warned of brutal days ahead.

"But soon there won't be any places for the ambulances to go. If every hospital is on diversion, no hospital is on diversion."

L.A. County hospitals turn away ambulances, put patients in gift shop: 'I've never seen anything like this' (LA Times)