Southern California hospitals face oxygen shortage

Hospitals in Southern California are facing shortages of both oxygen and the canisters needed to contain it, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At least five hospitals are experiencing shortages so severe they had to declare an internal disaster Dec. 27 that caused facilities to close to ambulance traffic, according to the Times

A non-COVID patient typically receives around 6 liters of oxygen per minute, but COVID-19 patients need as much as 80 liters per minute, the Times reported. 

The hospitals have so many patients that need a high rate of oxygen that they can't maintain adequate pressure needed in the pipes. There is such a high flow of oxygen in some hospitals that pipes are freezing, and older hospital pipes are breaking down because of how much oxygen needs to be distributed around the hospital. 

Some hospitals are being forced to move patients to lower floors, where it's easier to deliver oxygen without needing the pressure to push it up to higher floors, according to the Times

Kevan Metcalfe, CEO of Memorial Hospital of Gardena near Los Angeles, told the Times that the hospital has been running low on oxygen and that if it runs out, it would be in "deep, deep trouble." 

Hospitals are expecting to see increasing demand in the coming weeks because of COVID-19 infections that took place around Christmas, according to the Times. About 10 percent of people who test positive for COVID-19 in LA County need hospital treatment. 

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