How close Valley hospitals could be to changing treatment of patients during pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno County healthcare system is coming up with new ways to free up space in hospitals.

We could soon see patients in need of oxygen sent home with oxygen equipment.

"Under ideal conditions, everyone who needs oxygen would be admitted to the hospital. Unfortunately, we are operating under a disaster and we don't have the luxury," said Dr. Rais Vohra, Interim Fresno County Health Officer.

This comes as Southern California is taking even more extreme measures.

Paramedics there have now been instructed to not transport a patient to the hospital if their heart stops beating.

"I am following the Los Angeles scenario very closely and I can't say we are on that level right now," said Vohra.

Fresno County EMS director Dan Lynch said they have no plans to change their current 911 response, but the policy already calls for no transport of trauma patients in the field who have no pulse and are more than 10 minutes from a hospital.

Health officials also said Fresno County is not seeing the oxygen shortages that some hospitals in Southern California are experiencing, but some local vendors are experiencing an increased demand.

"Normally in our operation, we might see two to three oxygen clients a week. On a good week, maybe three or four and lately, we have been seeing three or four a day," said Randy Asai, Owner of Ray Fisher Pharmacy in north Fresno.

Asai rents and sells oxygen and the equipment that goes along with it.

He says many of his customers come in search of concentrators, including several who are recovering from COVID.

A concentrator can provide a person oxygen 24-hours a day for three years straight.

Asai said he hasn't had to turn anyone away, but he's gotten close.

"We were down to where we only had one unit and we were getting two or three requests a day. Fortunately, some of the other units started coming back," he said.

Asai said he's been working to get more concentrators which has been a struggle.

Meanwhile, Vohra says hospitals are adequately equipped with this equipment, at least for now.
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