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Emergency Room Patients Waiting In Long Lines Outside Hospitals After Orange County Suspends Ambulance Diversion

LOS ALAMITOS (CBSLA) — Patients being taken to the hospital are encountering long lines in emergency room bays after the Orange County Health Care Agency suspended ambulance diversions.

Ambulance diversion allowed hospitals to request that emergency patients be taken to other medical centers. With so many hospitals in Orange County at capacity because of the spike in COVID-19 patients, suspending the diversions means hospitals must accept patients regardless of their capacity.

For some hospitals, this creates long wait times, but also stops hospitals from not taking patients when they're not full.

At Los Alamitos Medical Center, a line of at least 17 ambulances with patients were spotted Wednesday outside the emergency room bay. Fire department paramedics from Anaheim, Long Beach, Orange County Fire Authority and LA County waited with their patients, some of whom were on gurneys, on the sidewalk leading up to the driveway of the emergency room bay.

Some patients received EKGs and X-Rays right in the bay, according to an EMT who asked not to be identified. Some hospitals are not accepting patients unless they first get a rapid COVID-19 test, he said.

Dr. Carl Schultz, Orange County's EMS medical director, said they were forced to make this move because overwhelming patient numbers led to almost all hospitals diverting ambulances simultaneously.

Suspending ambulance diversion "will spread this over the entire county and help to mitigate the escalating concern of finding hospital destinations for ambulances," he said. "To the best of our knowledge, this has never happened before."

On Thursday, the county broke its hospitalization record yet again — which has become a daily occurrence recently.

There are currently 1,519 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including 343 in ICU beds. The county's adjusted ICU bed capacity remains at zero.


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