Coronavirus in LA: EMT describes spending 17 hours caring for patient in ambulance amid hospital backup

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- EMTs have been on the front lines since day one of the pandemic, putting their lives at risk while fighting COVID-19 to keep the rest of us healthy and safe.

Across Los Angeles, ambulances - sometimes as many as 22 -- are stacked up outside hospitals overflowing with COVID-19 patients as EMTs wait for beds to open up.

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"I've been in the EMS business for about 35 years, and I don't use hyperbole, but we are definitely in uncharted territory right now." Watch the full interview with Dr. Marc Eckstein where he breaks down the current dire situation LA's healthcare system is facing.


A local EMT told ABC News that earlier this week, he was at a San Dimas hospital parking lot, where he spent 17 of those hours caring for a semi-critical patient in the back of his ambulance. That was at the end of his 60-hour shift.

"I have limited resources, and if they're slowly going downhill, there might not be a spot to put them in the hospital," the EMT described.

That may be an extreme case, but the average number is still stunning. It's typical to see five to seven ambulances waiting at any given hospital in this area for a minimum of three hours.

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It's a health care nightmare right now in LA County. With resources so scarce, hospitals have to focus on patients who have the highest chance of survival.


Another EMT said he's been deployed to Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Katrina, but he's never seen anything like what's happening in L.A. County right now.

"This is by far the worst disaster I've ever been involved in," he said.

Another 258 COVID-19 deaths were reported in L.A. County on Wednesday, among the highest daily numbers of the entire pandemic.

Officials said hospitalizations will likely increase for at least the next three weeks and deaths will remain disturbingly high.

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With hospitals slammed with a critical level of patients, EMS units in L.A. County are being told not to transport those with a low chance of survival.



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As L.A. County faces a critical moment in the fight against COVID-19, health officials say one in every four or five people who are tested are positive for the virus.

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