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Corps of Engineers to Help LA Hospitals With Oxygen

Deluge of patients has strained delivery systems in older buildings
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2021 5:45 PM CST
Hospitals Get Oxygen Help From Corps of Engineers
Medical personnel attend to a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Los Angeles in November.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(Newser) – Los Angeles County hospitals that are overrun with COVID-19 patients and struggling to provide them with oxygen are getting help. Crews from the Army Corps of Engineers are going to work on oxygen-delivery systems at several hospitals, the Los Angeles Times reports. At least five hospitals had closed to ambulance arrivals on Sunday after their oxygen systems were unable to keep up with the crush of patients, delivering insufficient airflow, per the Times. The problem is more severe at older hospitals. The county's health services director said that in some buildings, the old pipes can't maintain pressure, and that some of the pipes began freezing up. Some hospitals moved coronavirus patients to lower floors, where oxygen delivery requires less pressure, Dr. Christina Ghaly said.

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A shortage of oxygen tanks is another problem. Some of them are going home with patients, as hospitals discharge COVID-19 patients as quickly as possible to make room for more. The crews, which began arriving Saturday, per the AP, will assess the oxygen systems and six hospitals and supervise any upgrades. Gov. Gavin Newsom's office made the announcement. County hospitals also have been running short of the plastic tubing needed to deliver oxygen. COVID-19 patients require 60 to 80 liters of oxygen per minute, which is 10 times or so what other patients need. The county has reported about 790,000 COVID-19 cases total and more than 10,500 deaths as of Saturday, per KTTV. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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