Methodist Hospital Convenes Triage Team Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

Methodist Hospital of Southern California. | Photo courtesy of Methodist Hospital of Southern California

As Los Angeles County sees more than 200 daily COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations from the virus surpass 8,000, Methodist Hospitals of Southern California in Arcadia has convened a triage team that will “make the difficult, but necessary decisions about allocating limited resources,” to critically ill patients “based on the best medical information available.”

Though Cliff Daniels, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Methodist, told the Los Angeles Times Wednesday that the triage team had “yet to find the need to ration care,” the danger is far from over as public health officials expect another surge from gatherings and travel over the holidays.

“We are very fearful of what the next month is going to bring,” Daniels told The Times.

In conjunction with the influx of COVID patients, the hospital continues to care for people with other injuries and illnesses, placing a strain on key resources. The hospital says limited resources include “life-support equipment (like ventilators), sufficiently-staffed critical care (ICU) beds, and healthy clinical staff (doctors, nurses, therapists, and technicians).”

As these resources become scarce, patients may have limited options for their medical care. If a patient needs ICU care or to be put on a ventilator, for example, their case will be reviewed by the triage team.

“If a patient becomes extremely ill and very unlikely to survive their illness (even with life-saving treatment), then certain resources currently limited in availability, such as ICU care or a ventilator, may be allocated to another patient who is more likely to survive,” reads a public message from Methodist Hospital. “If a ventilator or ICU care is not offered or is stopped, the patient has the right to ask their doctor for further detail regarding this decision, and will receive everything needed to ensure that they are free of pain or discomfort.”

The triage team is not provided information about a patient’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, religion, citizenship, insurance or any other information unrelated health status. The team also re-evaluates critically ill patients daily.

The hospital, currently caring for 229 patients, of which more than half are COVID positive, now meets the county’s benchmark to enter crisis care mode. Although the hospital informed the California Department of Public Health on Dec. 29 that it would implement crisis care guidelines, as of Wednesday it had yet to formally make a declaration to the county.

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