Watch CBS News

'We're Getting Crushed': Record Numbers Of COVID-19 Patients Pushing LA, OC Hospitals To Their Limits

COVINA (CBSLA) — Triage tents were set up outside strained hospitals across the Southland Friday to deal with the spike of COVID-19 patients which has created a historic crisis of unprecedented proportions.

According to the latest state numbers Friday, Los Angeles County had 5,100 coronavirus patients hospitalized, a record since the pandemic began. 20.2% of those were in intensive care units.

covid patients
Coronavirus patients at LAC+USC Medical Center. Dec. 17, 2020. (LAC+USC Medical Center)
"We're getting crushed," Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at L.A. County + USC Medical Center, said. "I'm not going to sugar coat this. We are getting crushed. For most of the days of the last week, we've had zero ICU beds open in the morning."

The Southern California region's overall ICU capacity was down to zero Thursday, leaving healthcare workers stretched incredibly thin.

"If you have a heart attack, if you get into car accident, if you fall off a ladder or have a stroke, we may not have a bed for you," Spellberg said.

At Emanate Health Inter-Community Hospital In Covina, nurses were set to hold a news conference to express frustration over the swelling ratio of patients to nurses and the shortages of protective gear and equipment.

"Nurse to patient ratio is in place to provide safe and optimal patient care," said Emanate Emergency Department registered nurse Crystal Johnson in a statement. "The hospital had months to plan for this surge, so waiving ratios only creates chaos and does not take into account the acuity level of patients, in return, causing a hazardous unstable work environment with burnt out, fatigued nurses and unsafe patient care."

Hospitals across the region Thursday night and into Friday night were so full that many patients were being forced to wait in gurneys for hours while they waited for space.

Sky2 Thursday night showed people in need of emergency care waiting outside PIH Health Whittier Hospital on gurneys for up to an hour just to get in the door.

Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana reported that it had no ICU beds in its main hospital and its ER and triage tents were completely full. It was forced to open additional ICU beds on a floor which had been previously shuttered.

Orange County had a record 1,519 coronavirus patients hospitalized as of the latest state numbers Friday morning, including 22% in ICU beds. The county's adjusted ICU bed capacity remains at zero.

Meanwhile, several powerful local unions representing teachers and grocery store workers Thursday called on L.A. County to implement another major shutdown.

"We know the impact that it has on people's lives and businesses, it is nothing compared to the suffering that these patients are going through," Dr. Michael Rivera, a respiratory therapist at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center told CBSLA Thursday. "This is torture on a scale that I can't get my head around."

But in what many are calling a light at the end of the tunnel, L.A. County received about 83,000 doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine this week and O.C. received about 25,000. Those doses are going to healthcare workers and residents of long term care facilities.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.