Los Angeles County officials this week ordered paramedics to wait five minutes after reviving someone with cardiac arrest to see if their heart stops again before racing them to the hospital, a policy intended to reduce the number of high-risk patients flooding emergency rooms during the coronavirus pandemic.
The policy, which could apply to 911 patients with heart attacks and drug overdoses, as well as those with COVID-19, instructs first responders to wait and see whether a patient loses heart function again within five minutes after being revived. If so, paramedics will continue CPR in the field until a doctor tells them to stop because it is likely futile. CPR could continue for as long as 40 minutes, according to county officials.
The aim is to keep people who are likely to die out of hospitals, which are expected to soon be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients as the pandemic worsens. The number of people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in L.A. County more than doubled between Monday and Friday.
“The likelihood we’re going to do something different in the ER is unlikely, so then you’re basically putting additional risk to the system without real, clear benefit,” said Dr. Marianne Gausche-Hill, medical director of the county Emergency Medical Services Agency, who signed the policy that went into effect Monday.
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