Feb 1, 2021
Hospitals in Los Angeles County, overrun by a massive surge in COVID-19 patients and already short on ventilators, can’t even get oxygen gas to many of their patients who need it to stay alive.
The reason is not a shortage in oxygen, but shortcomings of the health care infrastructure in L.A. County.
With ICUs full to capacity, hospital officials have been placing critical COVID patients in other parts of the hospital. But often in those areas, pipes to deliver oxygen either do not exist or are not built to withstand the high volume of oxygen needed. In some hospitals, where aging pipes were breaking under the strain, there were not even enough canisters to store and transport the oxygen.
This catastrophic failure is, first of all, the result of years of cutbacks in hospitals—a management policy of running a “lean” business to increase profit. But still, there was time to remedy some of the shortcomings, and save many lives a year ago—when COVID-19 already started to send clear signals of what was to come. And months ago, experts began warning that a surge was likely in the fall and winter months.
But the whole time, the decision makers—health care executives and government officials—ignored the warnings. Instead of mobilizing resources to prepare for a surge in COVID cases, they continued to do what they always do: help big companies maximize their profits.
That’s how decisions are made in the capitalist system. The price is paid in tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives that could have been saved.