By T.A. Hendrickson
The hospitals nearest Northeast Los Angeles are straining to cope with the latest COVID-19 surge.
In the week ending Dec. 24, no intensive care unit beds were available at Adventist Health Glendale, Glendale Memorial and Alhambra Hospital Medical Center, according to a New York Times database, published Dec. 28, that tracks information provided by hospitals to the federal government.
The situation was similarly dire at other nearby hospitals, according to the database. White Memorial in Boyle Heights and Keck Hospital of USC were both at 98% ICU capacity. At that level, White Memorial had one ICU bed available and Keck had two.
USC Verdugo Hills and Providence St. Joseph Burbank were both at 92% capacity, leaving them with one and four available ICU beds, respectively.
L.A. County & USC Medical Center, at 85% ICU capacity, had 17 beds available, while Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, at 68% ICU capacity, had 22 available ICU beds.
Those figures portend an extension of stay-at-home orders because regional shutdowns are triggered in California when local ICU occupancy reaches 85% overall.
Federal health officials say that the data should not discourage sick people from seeking care, noting that ICU occupancy levels change with community circumstances and that hospitals have taken steps to keep non-Covid patients safe. The view from the local level is less reassuring: The L.A. Times reported on Dec. 28 that some healthcare providers in L.A. are pleading with people not to come to the emergency room unless it’s a matter of life or death.
By all indications, the situation will get worse before it gets better. In L.A. County, health officials are bracing for a post-Christmas COVID surge due to gatherings and travel over the holidays by people who ignored the officials’ pleas to stay home.
The worst case scenario for overextended hospitals is rationing of care and the resulting suffering and death that would be avoided under normal standards of care.