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LA Hospitals Still Don’t Have Enough Oxygen Canisters To Send Patients Home

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FILE PHOTO: Oxygen Tanks ready to go inside the VA Hospital's Mobile Isolation Unit. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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COVID-19 patients who recover enough to go home from the hospital often need supplemental oxygen. Their lungs are damaged from the disease; without the help, they often can’t breathe. But with thousands of recovering COVID-19 patients in L.A., oxygen companies are having a hard time keeping up.

"If I have five patients that could go home on oxygen, I’m finding I can’t get them out of the hospital because we can’t find home oxygen companies that have access to oxygen," said Kevan Metcalf is the CEO at Memorial Hospital of Gardena.

"And so that clogs up the hospital for the patients that are presenting to the emergency room on the front end," he said.

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Metcalf recently added 14 beds to the hospital auditorium to take care of more patients.

That means patients who could normally return home with supplemental oxygen, are being kept in the hospital for days. Metcalf says they don't have a choice.

"If they run out, they could go south really fast and they could die. They need a constant supply," he said.

A state Office of Emergency Management's press release said patients who have recovered from COVID-19 must return their home oxygen units and canisters, and encouraged businesses who use bulk oxygen or nitrogen to conserve, writing:

"We need as much capacity devoted to our medical community now as we possibly can. It’s not just the molecules themselves, but also the trucking capacity, the cylinders, the equipment. Every bit that can help free up capacity for our hospitals helps."

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There are now about 5,800 COVID-19 patients receiving care in hospitals throughout L.A. County, well over normal capacity.

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