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Orange County EMS Director Orders Overflowing ER's To Stop Sending Ambulances Elsewhere, If At All Possible

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Paramedics wearing facemasks work behind an ambulance at the Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park on March 19, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)
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Hospitals in Orange County have been ordered to stop diverting ambulances to other medical centers when their emergency rooms get too busy. That order came out late last night, hours after the county reported record high single-day high numbers of new deaths and cases.

The surge in coronavirus cases has strained hospital resources to the point where too many are requesting ambulances to go elsewhere.

Orange County EMS Medical Director Dr. Carl Shultz told us that, for the moment, it will be up to hospitals to implement their own emergency room overflow plans.

"In situations where a particular hospital is completely overwhelmed, the ambulance company has permission to move those patients to another hospital that's less impacted."

Ambulance companies can make that call, though, only after waiting at least one hour to unload the patient. That allowance is being made to avoid another potential problem: a shortage of ambulances.
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So should you call 911? In a real emergency, yes, Shultz says, but if you're in a position to safely transport yourself to an ER, Orange County officals are asking you to do that and not call for an ambulance unless necessary.

Usually when hospitals receive too many emergency cases or have a shortage of specialists, they temporarily divert ambulances bringing in new cases so they have a chance to catch up with the patients. Instead of going to the closest hospital, ambulances may be directed to take patients to a medical center with more capacity for faster care. But that only works when it's just a few hospitals and just some of the time.

As of today, the Southern California region is reporting 0% availability of hospital beds. The region includes L.A., Orange, Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Diego, Imperial, Mono and Inyo counties.


OVERALL LOOK AT ORANGE COUNTY NUMBERS:

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Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose Orange County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers were current as of Thursday, Dec. 16, and do not include today's updates:

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