County hospitals preparing for coronavirus patients, but lack doctors

Lääne County Hospital.
Lääne County Hospital. Source: Juhan Hepner/ERR

The number of patients with coronavirus is likely to increase rapidly and county hospitals are preparing for an influx. Creating an isolation ward is easy, but staffing is much more complicated as the majority of local doctors are at risk of contracting the virus because of their age.

At Lääne County Hospital in Haapsalu an isolation ward is being set up as the hospital prepares to accept new patients who have contracted coronavirus, ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Wednesday evening.

The hospital's chief of staff, Kai Tennisberg, acknowledged finding staff is a far more complicated problem than setting up an isolation ward. Currently only two doctors under the age of 65 work at the hospital.

"We have so much outside help here, some who are not our daily doctors, but if any of them were to drop out, really, I don't know [what would happen]," Tennisberg said.

Läänemaa Hospital has contacted Tallinn's North Estonian Medical Center and the larger hospital will help, but Tennisberg is a realist.

"We have a lot of people who are in cross-usage between different hospitals. But just physically there are no people," he admitted.

Sixth-year medical students, who, according to the doctor, are already smart enough to handle many things, have already come to the hospital to help.

The Järva County Hospital in Paide faces the same concerns.

Andres Müürsepp, chief of the hospital, said: "We have all the doctors we need, but they are all at risk - everyone is 60 and older, some also have health problems. We find it quite difficult with staff."

Müürsepp said doctors are keen to help the community as much as possible, but the hospital plans to follow the example of Kuressaare Hospital and seek help from the Health Board.

Järva County Hospital has established an infectious ward which has beds for 15 coronavirus patients, but if necessary, all 70 beds in the hospital could be provided to patients who have contracted coronavirus.

Neither hospital can take patients who will need intensive care. At Järva County Hospital the possibilities to use ventilators, to help patients breath if they develop lung problems, are limited.

From Wednesday, coronavirus patients will be treated at Pärnu, Ida-Viru, Ida-Tallinn, Lääne-Tallinn Central Hospital, Tartu University Clinic and North-Estonia Medical Center.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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