Kuressaare hospital to get third coronavirus ward

Kuressaare Hospital.
Kuressaare Hospital. Source: ERR

A third coronavirus ward is to be opened at Kuressaare Hospital, the sole hospital on the island of Saaremaa, the most affected region in Estonia in the coronavirus pandemic so far.

"The third ward is probably going to go on Tuesday, depending on how bad the situation is. Sunday was not that bad for admissions. There were three new coronary positive patients [then]," said Edward Laane, board member and chief of care at Kuressaare Hospital.

There are currently 27 people hospitalized there, with one in intensive care, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

The two existing coronarvirus wards at Kuressaare Hospital currently hold 11 and 12 patients respectively. The third will have a capacity of 14 patients. 

Supply of oxygen to all 14 patients is not guaranteed at present, but the hospital is building towards improving that, Laane said.

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) has raised the possibility of an Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) field hospital to anticipate the third ward filling to capacity, with other departments at the hospital at Kuressaare, the island's capital, being looked at for potential use, including those in the physiotherapy department.

An agreement has also been signed with the North Estonian Regional Hospital (PERH) for potential overflow for intensive care cases, Laane said.

Staff shortages including doctors, nurses and caregivers is additionally becoming increasingly urgent at the hospital, not least since as of Friday there were 21 hospital staff who had contracted the virus.

The nature of the intensive care work and the need for protective gear and measures brings an even higher requirement for staff than on regular working days, as well.

"Staff shortages are becoming more and more evident with each passing day. We have now asked for help from outside as well and hope that doctors and nurses will come here, and we need carers," Laane said.

Personal protective equipment is currently in stock at the hospital, with about a week's supply available at present, at a warehouse, Laane said.

The first consignment of protective equipment ordered from China in a US$11.4 deal is set to arrive on Wednesday in Tallinn.

Based on different models, Laane said the incidence of COVID-19 coronavirus is likely to increase this week and next, with the critical limit arriving in mid-April, or around April 20 to be more precise. 

Laane also pointed out that because people are at home, and hospitals are filled with sick people, this further exacerbates public anxiety, leading to many challenges for the ambulance service.

Saaremaa, one of the first regions in Estonia to record cases following a touring volleyball team from Italy which was taking part in a tournament on the island early on in March, has by far the highest per capita rate of coronavirus at 77.93 per 10,000 inhabitants at the time of writing, according to Health Board (Terviseamet) data. The next-highest rate in any of Estonia's other 14 counties is in Võru County, another region which has among the first recorded cases of the virus and which has recorded 17.61 per 10,000, followed by Hiiumaa, Estonia's second largest island, at 6.39 per 10,000. All the remaining counties have figures at the time of writing below 5 per 10,000.

Saaremaa and other Estonian islands are closed to non-residents; additional measures rolled out by the government on Saturday include mandatory carrying of ID when leaving the house, with fines of up to €2,000 possible in the case of infringements. The president has given the go-ahead for volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) personnel to be drafted into assist the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) on the island, whose own patrols have been stepped up.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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