Ambulances wait for hours with patients at California hospitals

By AMY TAXIN | Related press

Emergency medical workers in California on Wednesday waited for hours to transfer patients from ambulances to hospital emergency rooms in what they said were chronic delays worsening more due to the coronavirus pandemic that lasted nearly two years.

In a legislative hearing, first responders said taking more than 20 minutes expected to admit a patient at a hospital emergency room is bad for the patient and hinders the ability to admit their new emergency calls. They say they often wait hours at hospitals because no one is ready to take on new patients – a problem that doctors and hospital managers say stems from delays in their work. testing, x-rays and insurance authorization.

Dr. Clayton Kazan, chief medical officer at the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said hospital challenges shouldn’t cripple the 911 system for the most critical emergencies. The system, he said, is unsustainable and becomes even more stressful when the pandemic hits. Hospitals are responsible for the stalling, and not all patients should be sent to hospitals for triage, he said.

“We are in a disaster. It went on for two years. It was a slow-paced disaster,” Kazan said during an Emergency Management Board Committee hearing in Sacramento. “It’s the equivalent of a plane crash every few days in my own county, but every day we still have critically ill patients waiting for an ambulance on the scene to provide treatment.”

While delays have long plagued ambulance-hospital relationships in California, the problem has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. California is seeing an increase in hospitalizations following a spike in omicron variant infections that began late last month. More than 15,000 people were hospitalized with the virus on Wednesday – an 89% increase from two weeks ago.

There have been some signs that transmission may be slowing in the state of nearly 40 million people, such as wastewater testing in Northern California showing less prevalence of the virus. However, health officials say the number of hospitalizations is likely not to peak until the end of the month and hospitals are bracing for further stress as their own workers are sidelined as well. coronavirus infection.

The omicron variant spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, but early studies suggest it is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant and concurrent vaccination. booster injections still provide strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.

Dr Lori Morgan, president and chief executive officer of Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California, said emergency room overcrowding has become common during the pandemic following a surge in utilization. non-emergency emergency rooms for issues like behavioral health and homeless assistance. She said she also encountered obstacles in hospital discharge, such as a lack of acute care beds and delayed insurance.

On Wednesday, Morgan said she has 18 patients ready to be discharged but has nowhere to send them. Meanwhile, eight people in the emergency room need to be hospitalized and another 15 are expected to be monitored, not counting patients sitting in ambulances waiting to be admitted, she said.

“There isn’t a silver bullet,” she said.

First responders are adamant that hospitals need to do more to receive their patients quickly, allowing them to answer more calls, as well as recess and lunch. Some speakers suggested penalizing hospitals for not admitting patients faster, or providing economic incentives for them to do so, as well as ways to treat more non-acute patients through outside programs. or in facilities other than the emergency room. Ambulances wait for hours with patients at California hospitals

Huynh Nguyen

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