Tartu University Hospital sets up mobile triage unit in front of ER

Mobile unit in front of the doors to the ER at Tartu University Hospital (TÜK).
Mobile unit in front of the doors to the ER at Tartu University Hospital (TÜK). Source: TÜK

Tartu University Hospital (TÜK) has set up a mobile triage unit in front of its emergency room to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus into the hospital.

"In the epidemiological situation that has arisen with the COVID-19 virus, it's essential to employ additional measures to ensure the protection of patients treated at the hospital as well as hospital employees," Joel Starkopf, head of TÜK's crisis management team, said in a press release on Saturday.

The unnecessary movement of persons must be brought down to a minimum, and their gathering in risk zones, such as the hospital, needs to be prevented.

Anyone coming to the emergency room at TÜK must first pass through the mobile triage unit, where they will be asked about their symptoms and medical history and where a decision will be made regarding their need for treatment. Employees of the hospital's Emergency Department working in the mobile triage unit are wearing protective gear to prevent the possible spread of the virus.

Staff at the Emergency Department are also urging Estonian residents to first call their family doctor or the national family doctor hotline at 1220 if they have a medical problem, or call emergency services at 112, before going to the emergency room.

Hospital proposes suspending scheduled care

A crisis management team convened by TÜK on Friday proposed discontinuing scheduled patient treatment at the hospital.

The crisis management team was established by the board of the hospital on Friday to draw up guidelines for the organization of scheduled and emergency work at the hospital under conditions of a nationwide emergency situation.

Based on a proposal of the crisis management team, the TÜK board proposed to the Health Board to discontinue both scheduled outpatient work and inpatient work at the hospital from March 18-31, with the possibility of extending the period until the emergency situation is lifted.

Considering the emergency situation declared by the Estonian government and the epidemiological situation connected to the novel coronavirus, the board of the hospital established a crisis management team led by Starkopf, director of the hospital's Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Clinic, spokespeople for the hospital said.

The coronavirus working group of the hospital's infection control service has been meeting for several weeks, monitoring and analyzing the situation in Estonia and worldwide as well as drawing up guidelines for handling coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients. At an emergency meeting on Friday, the hospital board decided to raise its risk estimate concerning the situation at the hospital, TÜK CEO Priit Eelmäe said.

The crisis management team proposed to the board to suspend scheduled patient treatment due to the epidemiological situation as well as the emergency situation declared by the government late Thursday night.

The goal of such a move is to bring to a minimum the unnecessary movement of people and thereby ensure the protection of hospital patients and staff alike, Starkopf explained.

In parallel, the crisis management team is also preparing an action plan for the organization of the hospital's work in such a way that the top priority is the treatment of emergency patients, but also the protection of other patients and hospital staff against infection.

The board has requested that all business trips abroad by hospital employees be canceled. All training events, including internal ones, have been canceled. No study activities will be conducted at the hospital, except for clinical training for sixth-year medical students and students of healthcare colleges, which will continue in accordance with agreements.

No external trainees will be admitted by he hospital during spring semester, regardless of the trainee's country of origin. Discussion group events for patients as well as visits by the mobile mammography unit have been canceled as well.

TÜK also announced that one of its employees, who never came into contact with patients, has been diagnosed with coronavirus disease and is recovering at home. Both the hospital and the Health Board have been actively tracing contacts of the infected employee; all affected persons have been informed and necessary measures taken.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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