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Like hospitals, ambulance systems in Los Angeles County are buckling under the surge of COVID-19 cases.

Bottlenecks, extreme wait times and sickened staff are among the issues facing the county’s emergency medical technicians, officials said, with at least one EMT waiting as long as 17 hours to offload a critical patient.

“While we’re trained to deal with crises, something like this has never been seen in anybody’s lifetime that’s in healthcare right now,” said Tom Wagner, west group president of American Medical Response, one of the largest ambulance service providers in the county.

AMR and Care, the county’s other major ambulance service provider, are responding to a combined 1,500 emergency calls a day, officials said — roughly 30% more than in earlier months of the pandemic, when calls decreased during initial stay-at-home orders.

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