Bodies pile up, patient care falters at L.A. County hospitals amid unprecedented COVID-19 surge

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A COVID-19 patient who had a stroke is prepped to be flown from Providence St. Mary Medical Center to another hospital on Dec. 22, 2020. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A COVID-19 patient who had a stroke is prepped to be flown from Providence St. Mary Medical Center to another hospital on Dec. 22, 2020. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

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Los Angeles County’s healthcare system was buckling Wednesday under the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 patients, with bodies piling up at morgues and medical professionals resorting to increasingly desperate measures as they brace for conditions to worsen in the coming weeks.

With hospitals overwhelmed by patients and no outlet valve available, doctors, nurses and paramedics are being forced to make wrenching choices about who gets care and at what level.

“No one would believe this is in the United States,” said Scott Byington, a critical care nurse at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood. “Everyone is doing what they can do. It’s not that anybody is slacking. It’s just that it’s too overwhelming for everyone.”

Hospital morgues are so full that the National Guard is being called in to help county workers as corpses are moved into storage at the L.A. County Department of the Medical Examiner-Coroner. The overcrowded crypts at hospitals are a result of private mortuaries running out of space and staff to handle the unprecedented number of COVID-19 deaths.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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