Cardiac arrest patients with low survival chance — LA ambulance crews told not to transport them to hospitals

Hosted by

An American Medical Response paramedic in Santa Clarita. Photo by Tomás Del Coro (CC BY-SA 2.0)

LA has such a low supply of ambulances and hospital beds that the county’s Emergency Medical Services agency issued a new directive: Do not transport cardiac arrest patients who have little chance of survival to hospitals.

“Patients that have virtually no chance of survival, those patients shouldn't be transported, thereby opening that ambulance for a patient that would have a chance for survival,” says Dr. Denise Whitfield, Director of Education and Innovation at LA County EMS. “This directive basically reiterates what we have recommended prior to the COVID pandemic, such that our resources can be focused for other patients, and our EMS system does not get further overwhelmed.”

To conserve the county’s oxygen supply, the agency issued a second directive that says EMTs should only administer supplemental oxygen to patients if their saturation levels are below 90%. 

“Because most of the patients that we're transporting and treating at the hospital require oxygen for treatment of COVID, oxygen has become a limited resource,” says Whitfield.

In her decade-long career as an emergency medicine physician, she says she’s never seen the local health care system under this much stress.

“It’s something none of us have seen before — physicians, nurses, across the board. We will fight every day to do the best for every patient that we encounter.”

Credits

Guest:
Dr. Denise Whitfield - Director of Education and Innovation, LA County Emergency Medical Services Agency

Host:
Steve Chiotakis

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel, Kathryn Barnes