‘Triage officers’ would decide who gets care and who doesn’t if COVID-19 crushes L.A. hospitals

Stretched to the breaking point by a deluge of COVID-19 patients, Los Angeles County’s four public hospitals are preparing to take the extraordinary step of rationing care, with a team of “triage officers” set to decide which patients can benefit from continued treatment and which are beyond saving and should be allowed to die.

The county’s top health officials have not yet declared a shift to a crisis level of care, which would trigger the rationing system, but the leader of the public hospitals acknowledged in a letter reviewed by The Times this week that “there will likely come a point when we simply don’t have sufficient staffing or critical supplies to care for all our patients in the way we normally would.”

The crisis designation would empower the newly named triage officers — usually critical care and emergency room doctors — to decide which patients at county hospitals would get access to resources such as ventilators, respiratory therapists and critical care nurses when they become too scarce to be provided to every patient.

Hospitals outside the county system will have to decide on their own whether to invoke similar urgency measures, though state officials told them last week that they should have triage plans ready.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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