Overwhelmed California hospitals raced this week to complete crisis-care plans that give priority to which patients get care when there aren’t enough staff, supplies and lifesaving equipment, raising concerns that the inconsistent criteria across hospitals will lead to disparities for patients.
In a prolonged nationwide Covid-19 surge, California leads states in daily new cases and deaths, with about 22,800 hospitalized as of Wednesday, figures from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project show. Four hospitals have approached or hit the crisis point before getting state help, California’s Department of Public Health said.
The state required hospitals to publish crisis plans this week. A review of some plans by The Wall Street Journal found hospitals came up with varied policies for how to decide which patients will receive critical services when demand outstrips available supply. Hospitals must notify public-health agencies as they hit crisis stage, but public officials gave conflicting answers this week on whether they would notify the public.
Hospitals and public officials said they are working to avoid reaching a crisis state by moving people or support where they are needed. But the surge has pushed some hospitals near or to their limits. Shortages of critical supplies are acute; Los Angeles County, for example, told ambulance crews on Monday to conserve oxygen given to patients.
Officially, more than 300,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the U.S. But experts who believe the real death toll to be much higher are racing to count missed or misdiagnosed cases, in a bid to improve the nation’s public-health response. Photo: Photo: Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images