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LA County EMT says he waited 17 hours in rig with patient outside hospital

Los Angeles Fire Department Medical Director Dr. Marc Eckstein says the COVID-19 crisis in the area has reached “uncharted territory”


AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

By Laura French

LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Calif. — A Los Angeles County EMT told reporters that he spent 17 hours in an ambulance in a hospital parking lot, waiting for a bed to open up for his patient, amidst an ongoing COVID-19 crisis in the area.

The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency issued a directive earlier this week for ambulance crews to conserve oxygen and not transport patients who have little chance for survival as hospitals across the county are overwhelmed by an influx of COVID-19 cases. More than 8,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county and about 200 deaths due to the virus are being recorded in the county daily, according to LA County Public Health data.

An LA County EMT told ABC News about the 17-hour wait he and a semi-critical patient experienced last week, which occurred toward the end of a 60-hour shift. Other EMS providers told ABC reporters that they and their patients have waited 7-8 hours for a spot, with the news station reporting that a typical minimum wait at area hospitals is about 3 hours.

Los Angeles Fire Department Medical Director Dr. Marc Eckstein, who has worked for about 35 years in EMS, told ABC in an interview that the current crisis is “uncharted territory” and noted the impact on response times and coverage caused by the long waits outside hospitals. He said that in one case, 19 ambulances were outside a hospital, all waiting for available beds. He urged residents to not call 911 unless they need to.

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