Los Angeles County hospitals say people are waiting too long to seek treatment over coronavirus fears

Doctors at some Los Angeles County hospitals say people are waiting too long to seek medical treatment — including those infected with the coronavirus — over fears of catching Covid-19, potentially leading to more detrimental effects to their health.

Los Angeles County reported 1,491 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the total to 13,816, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

At Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, most of the people coming to the emergency room are experiencing respiratory issues.

“What we are seeing is a lot more sicker people now coming in that qualify for an inpatient stay,” said Dr. Paryus Patel, chief medical officer of Centinela Hospital Medical Center. “So typically, we used to see on a non-Covid day about 150, 180 patients a day. We are seeing about 90 to 100 (patients) — averaging out. Most of them come in for an acute medical need which will require hospitalization.”

Patel is also seeing signs that people are loosening their own social distancing measures despite mandates from Garcetti and California Gov. Gavin Newsom for residents to shelter at home.

“After Easter, we got hit hard and that was because families were visiting each other,” Patel said of Centinela Hospital where he estimates 40% to 45% of patients are Covid-19 infected. “So they are visiting more patients and families, which they shouldn’t be doing and that’s why we’re going to start seeing more and more.”

He warned that Los Angeles County has not yet reached the peak of the outbreak.

“We still have two to three more weeks to curtail this disease and probably plateau or flatten it out,” Patel said. The doctor warned that if people don’t continue social distancing, California’s system of hospitals could be overwhelmed with patients.

Meanwhile at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, the hospital has seen its patient volume drop significantly and is now at half capacity. It’s Covid-19 patient volume has been stable for two weeks with about 120 to 130 patients fighting the disease. But even with the coronavirus patients, Cedars-Sinai’s emergency room is seeing about half the volumes that it normally would.

“Right now, we’re taking care of about 400 or so non-Covid patients,” said Dr. Jeff Smith, chief operating officer of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. “We’re still caring for three- to four-times as many non-Covid patients as we are Covid patients but we still have a lot of capacity because patients have chosen to avoid the hospital.”

Both Centinela Hospital and Cedars-Sinai have separate areas of their facilities dedicated to treating Covid-19 patients and both hospitals want people to seek out medical attention before their health deteriorates.

“It really just comes back to if you have an urgent or an emergent need, we can care for you safely at the hospital,” said Smith, of Cedars-Sinai. “And you should come.”