(CNN)Oxygen supply issues led at least five Los Angeles County hospitals to declare an “internal disaster” Sunday, which included turning patients away.
There are multiple issues involving oxygen delivery to patients, but generally the problem is not an absolute shortage of oxygen, according to Dr. Christina Ghaly, Los Angeles County Health Services director.
Instead, at some area hospitals, aging infrastructure that pumps oxygen to patient rooms is unable to keep up with the high number of patients needing oxygen.
“They’re not able to maintain the pressure in the pipe to maintain oxygen delivery at that high level of pressure that’s required to be delivered through the high-flow oxygen delivery vehicles,” Ghaly said. “Because of that high flow through the pipes, sometimes it’s freezing in the pipes, and obviously if it freezes then you can’t have good flow of oxygen.”
The oxygen issues come as Los Angeles County sees a near-overwhelming surge of Covid-19 patients taking nearly every hospital to capacity. Nearly 7,000 patients are currently hospitalized, with about 20% of those in intensive care units.
California has seen a startling increase in coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths over the past two months. The state averaged more than 40,000 new coronavirus infections every day for the week prior to Christmas, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, filling up hospitals and pushing health care workers to consider ways to ration care.
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