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Emergency Room At Kaiser's Downey Medical Center Temporarily Turns Away Ambulance Patients, Other Facilities May Also Go On Diversion

DOWNEY (CBSLA) — Kaiser Permanente says its Downey emergency room is going on diversion because it has been overwhelmed with COVID-19 and flu patients.

Many emergency rooms are at capacity due to the latest surge of both flu and COVID-19 patients in Los Angeles County, which reported its highest number of new cases since the pandemic started – 37,215 new cases on Thursday. This latest wave of infections appears to be driven by the Omicron variant, which experts say is highly contagious even for people who have been fully vaccinated and boosted.

Kaiser this week put its Downey Medical Center on diversion, which means the facility will not accept new emergency room patients transported by ambulance, who must be taken to get care at other hospitals. Patients may still walk-in and get care at the facility's emergency room.

"Diversion is commonly used to deal with overloaded hospitals and ensures that ambulances will efficiently get patients to facilities for care," a statement from Kaiser Permanente said. "Diversion is only done when it is absolutely necessary whether it is done for just a few hours or a full day."

During the last winter surge, so many hospitals in Orange County went on diversion that county public health officials suspended the practice, forcing hospitals to accept patients, which led to long lines of ambulances outside emergency room bays.

Kaiser says they "are employing this tactic judiciously" at the Downey Medical Center, but it could also be instituted at other facilities.

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