Patients ‘piled in hallways’ at Los Angeles hospital as COVID-19 overwhelms the health care system
ARDS is a severe complication of COVID-19 that requires patients to be placed on ventilators to help them breathe JACK GUEZ AFP:File

California, in recent weeks, has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of its hospitals are being overwhelmed with critically ill patients. But the Los Angeles-area hospitals that are the most overwhelmed, according to the Los Angeles Times, are the ones serving primarily people of color and low-income patients.

Times reporters Matt Stiles, Emily Baumgaertner, Jaclyn Cosgrove and Andrew J. Campa, in an article published this week, explain that according to the publication's research and analysis, "densely populated and non-White communities" are facing "the greatest challenge in providing care."

According to the journalists, "Hospitals in South Los Angeles, the cities in Southeast L.A. County along the 710 Freeway and in parts of the southern San Gabriel Valley are experiencing the greatest capacity problems, the data showed. Many of these facilities are relatively small and are less able to add intensive care staff or expand bed capacity than the county's biggest hospitals."

The reporters continue, "The data underscores how communities of color have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic, with Latino and Black residents far more likely to get the virus and die of it compared with Whites. Low-income essential workers often get sick while on the job and then spread COVID-19 to family, officials have said."

Data release by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, they write, "shows that more than 6,000 patients with the coronavirus were hospitalized in L.A. County on average last week, nearly four times as many as a month ago, pushing the share of all admitted patients with the disease above 40%."

The situation is especially dire at Kaiser Permanente Downey Medical Center, where, according to the Times reporters, "more than 80% of the patients have or are suspected to have been infected with the virus."

"Some new patients with the disease are being treated near the emergency department waiting area, in a triage room staffed with doctors, and some who are stable enough to leave are being sent home with oxygen," the Times journalists explain. "Patients were 'piled in administrative hallways, stuffed in the corners, hanging over chairs,' said one healthcare worker, who asked for anonymity out of fear of retribution. When the emergency room ran out of crevices, staffers began treating people right in the waiting room."