Los Angeles fire trucks are transporting patients now as COVID surge hits firefighters, ambulance companies

Los Angeles County firefighters are transporting patients to hospitals in their trucks rather than ambulances, an unprecedented move required because of surging coronavirus cases within the county Fire Department and among paramedic companies.

That’s according to acting Assistant Chief Brian Bennett, who said during a recent report to the Carson City Council that 450 Los Angeles County firefighters have tested positive for the coronavirus and are off work, putting a massive strain on the emergency response system, both in the South Bay town and across the county.

“What that means is the firefighters that are working in the city of Carson and around the county are being asked to work extra hours, extra days,” Bennett said Tuesday, Jan. 4, adding that despite the staffing shortage, the department has not reduced any services. “But our folks, just as our partners in the Sheriff’s department, are being stressed and are at their limit.”

The surge in coronavirus cases across the county, fueled by the omicron variant, has also hit paramedics, as well as hospitals, Bennett said.

“An already stressed system in the emergency departments is now working on a limited staff with more of the residents coming into the hospitals,” he said. “And the ambulance companies — same thing, they’re now affected with probably about 50% of their employees off with COVID.”

The staffing shortages at ambulances companies in the area have gotten so bad, Bennett said, that the Los Angeles County fire chief has approved an emergency transport plan, under which responding firefighters are now transporting patients to hospitals in fire trucks. That move, Bennett said, is “unheard of.”

And firefighters responding to an emergency that only requires basic care or first aid, Bennett said, are telling residents to essentially arrange their own transportation to the hospital.

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