Paramedics in Southern California say hospitals look like 'war zones'

HALEY YAMADA
·2 min read

With new signs the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 will continue to spread, paramedics in hard-hit Southern California say they don't think strained hospitals can take much more.

"It's almost like a war zone out here," said Ismael Villegas, an emergency medical technician with Care Ambulance Service. "There's multiple patients in rooms. I went inside the hospital; there's blood on the floor because they don't even have a chance to clean it yet, just because there's so much going on."

PHOTO: COVID-19 has claimed a record number of lives in the last 24 hours, after over 4000 people reportedly died of the virus. (ABC)
PHOTO: COVID-19 has claimed a record number of lives in the last 24 hours, after over 4000 people reportedly died of the virus. (ABC)

One Los Angeles EMT told ABC News he waited 17 hours on Tuesday with a semi-critical patient in his ambulance before a bed became available. Brandon Gray said he spent much of that time scrambling to find oxygen to keep refiling his rig's tank.

MORE: Coronavirus live updates: US marks deadliest day since pandemic began

With such long wait times once they arrive at hospitals in the region, that's a problem many EMTs are running into. Gray's crew member, Megan Griffin, explained how she had to put two patients on the same oxygen flow at the same time.

"Resources are really low," said Griffin. "That was the only option."

PHOTO: The EMT crews, who have been working around the clock, told ABC News that they feel helpless. (ABC)
PHOTO: The EMT crews, who have been working around the clock, told ABC News that they feel helpless. (ABC)

For the first time since the pandemic began, more than 4,000 deaths were confirmed in the U.S. over just the last 24 hours.

MORE: With LA hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19, EMS told not to transport certain patients

The highly contagious variant of the virus that was first identified in the U.K. has now been found in eight states, including Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Texas on Thursday.

PHOTO: ABC News' Kaylee Hartung reports on overwhelmed paramedics in southern California.  (ABC)
PHOTO: ABC News' Kaylee Hartung reports on overwhelmed paramedics in southern California. (ABC)

"This variant has the potential to throw jet fuel on an already dangerous situation," said Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, Texas, who leads coronavirus response in the county that includes Houston.

The EMT crews, who have been working around the clock, told ABC News that they are exhausted and feel helpless.

PHOTO: “This variant has the potential to throw jet fuel on an already dangerous situation,” said Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, Texas. (ABC)
PHOTO: “This variant has the potential to throw jet fuel on an already dangerous situation,” said Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, Texas. (ABC)

"I saw a beautiful 95-year-old woman who was in pain lying in the back of an ambulance for 12 hours," said Bill Weston, the director of operations for Care Ambulance. "There was absolutely nothing we could do to get her into that hospital because there was no more room in the hospital."

MORE: UC San Diego introduces vending machines for COVID-19 tests

In Weston's more than 30-year career in EMS, he's been deployed to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, but he said what's happening right now in Los Angeles County "is by far the worst disaster I've ever been involved in."

Paramedics in Southern California say hospitals look like 'war zones' originally appeared on abcnews.go.com