By Dan Jamieson
City officials are concerned that with the run-up in Covid cases, residents might not get ambulance service when they call 9-1-1.
“We may not have resources to respond” when residents call, said city manager Oliver Chi during a December 21 city council meeting.
Fire chiefs across the county are worried they won’t have ambulances to send, added Scott Haberlee, Huntington Beach Fire Department chief. The city recently added additional ambulance capacity, he said.
Emergency patients are seeing long wait times at ERs, Haberlee said. Since Dec. 15, average waits have expanded to 76 minutes, versus 15 to 20 minutes prior to Covid.
There are no ICU beds available in Orange County hospitals when capacity is adjusted to retain a few beds for non-Covid cases, said Chi, who added this dire warning: “There is a real serious concern, as we start 2021, that the healthcare system in Orange County as we know it could collapse.”
Hospitals are using tents and other wards to handle emergency patients, Haberlee said. But another surge following the holidays could push patient load past capacity.
The HBFD chief said residents should not wait to contact their doctors if they suspect infection. Often the first symptom of Covid is the losing the sense of taste or smell. “You’d be surprised how many people tell me they got up to have their cup of coffee in the morning, and they [couldn’t] taste their coffee.”
The virus has also sparked tiffs between City management and council members over mask-wearing.