Three patients will be transferred to the mainland from Kuressaare Hospital on Wednesday after a council met to discuss patients' progress on Tuesday evening. Plans to move sick patients to bigger hospitals were initially met with surprise by staff at the hospital on Saaremaa.
The hospital's medical chief Edward Laane told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Tuesday initially the staff expected five or six to be moved to the mainland, but this council selected fewer patients.
"Finally, it was decided four patients could be taken to a higher treatment institution. One of them wanted to remain in Kuressaare Hospital, so three patients [went] in the end," said Laane.
On Tuesday, the Health Board launched a strategic plan to reduce the workload of staff at Kuressaare Hospital. Treatment of COVID-19 patients in need of continued treatment will be moved to higher-level hospitals but nobody will be forced to go.
After the plan was publically announced, the management of Kuressaare Hospital said the plan to take the patients to other hospitals had come as a surprise to them and they did not think it necessary.
Laane said it cannot be said that Kuressaare Hospital was or is opposed to moving patients to the mainland, but that the hospital is basing its treatment on the well-being of patients.
"The better the treatment, the better for the patient. If we see that another hospital can provide better treatment, then, of course, we will refer that patient to another institution. If we see that the patient will not get better treatment elsewhere, that they will receive the same treatment as in Kuressaare Hospital, in our opinion, referring such a patient to another hospital is not justified," said Laane.
"When we look at our patients, our COVID-19-infected patients are elderly and the transportation of elderly patients is very difficult. Many patients have no symptoms, they are essentially quarantined - is it worthwhile to move these patients from one institution to another?" he added.
The island of Saaremaa has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Estonia and has 494 positive cases of the disease amongst a population of 33,000 people. In contrast, Harju County, which includes Tallinn, has 442 cases but a population of more than 580,000.
A plan is also being made to close the military field hospital run by the Defence Forces which is supporting Kuressaare Hospital with additional staff and beds.
Editor: Helen Wright