Orange County hospitals are being urged to activate surge plans and halt non-emergency surgeries in a late Wednesday night directive from the county Health Care Agency as coronavirus hospitalizations skyrocket.

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“The health care system in Orange County is now in crisis resulting from an overwhelming increase in the number of COVID infected patients,” reads the directive, issued by Dr. Carl Schultz, the Emergency Medical Services medical director. 

Schultz said hospitals could ease stress by cancelling all elective surgeries. 

Without intervention, county officials warn that Orange County’s emergency medical services could collapse. 

“At the current rate of deterioration, the EMS system may collapse unless emergency directives are implemented now,” Schultz wrote, referring to the services system that includes hospitals and ambulances.

“Ambulance EMTs are waiting hours just to transfer patients from their vehicles to emergency departments. This results in dangerous delays in initial patient assessments to ensure they don’t have an emergency medical condition,’ the directive states. “This results in dangerous delays in initial patient assessments to ensure they don’t have an emergency medical condition.”

As part of the emergency directive, Schultz is allowing all ambulances to drive to hospitals more than 20 minute from their standard destinations to hospitals that can immediately accept them. 

[Click here to read the emergency hospital directive from county officials.]

It’s a situation that secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly, warned about at a Monday news conference. 

“You can wait only so long to put in a heart valve, or a catheter … they’re elective for a day or two, not months,” Ghaly said. “We want that capacity to be there for you when a car accident happens … or a heart attack or stroke.” 

Meanwhile, state public health officials have readied the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa to start taking stabilized coronavirus patients

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