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An onslaught of COVID-19 patients is hammering medical facilities throughout Los Angeles County as Christmas approaches — forcing hospitals to divert ambulances and leave patients in the lurch for hours. It is also prompting officials to warn healthcare providers that only the sickest patients should be sent to emergency rooms.

County health officials sent a memo to doctors and nurses across the county Wednesday evening reiterating that hospitals were at a breaking point.

“Hospitals have implemented their surge plans and are adjusting staffing and space to try to meet the needs of their community,” states the memo, which was written by Dr. Sharon Balter, the county’s chief of communicable disease control and prevention. “It is critical that as a healthcare community we look at all available opportunities to help decrease the surge on hospitals and our 911 system, where possible.”

The alert, sent through an email system to all healthcare providers in the county, was titled: “Addressing Extreme Surge on Hospitals and 911 System.”

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