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Popov: Kuressaare will benefit from decision to move patients to mainland

Arkadi Popov
Arkadi Popov Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Medical chief of the Health Board's crisis headquarters Dr. Arkadi Popov says that the decision to move patients being treated at Kuressaare Hospital to the mainland was made to help restore normal rhythm at the presently overburdened hospital and give its staff a chance to catch their breath. Even though the hospital seems opposed to the decision made on Wednesday, Dr. Popov says that negotiations that preceded it were amicable and peaceful. "I do not believe it is a serious problem for us to discuss," he told "Aktuaalne kaamera" in an interview.

The virus started doing the rounds at Kuressaare Hospital when patients were left there and were no longer moved to Pärnu Hospital or other mainland hospitals. Something must have gone wrong.

We were initially expecting a major wave of patients on the mainland and making preparations for the number of hospitalized people growing in Tallinn, Pärnu, Tartu, everywhere. We were literally waiting for a battle. That meant Kuressaare Hospital was left to its own devices to some extent, while transport of patients to the mainland never completely ceased. The most severe cases where always sent to higher tier hospitals.

The rationale today is that because the situation is not critical, it makes little sense to have Kuressaare Hospital working at full capacity and without reserves. People are working overtime. More patients means more protective equipment and risks associated with its proper use. The more tired a person, the more likely they are to make mistakes. We need to keep that in mind.

I believe that now that the decision has been made, the staff can rest and patients can be treated more comfortably in hospital rooms that are no longer overpopulated. Higher tier hospitals can offer better medical care. Additionally, it will allow Kuressaare Hospital to return to its normal rhythm. Because it now has considerable testing capacity, coronavirus tests can be administered on location. Patients can be separated based on whether they have the virus. I believe everyone will benefit from this, especially patients but also people working at the Kuressaare Hospital.

Your press release was very positive, saying that you will be coming to the hospital's aid, looking to restore its everyday rhythm. Yet, the hospital's head of treatment Dr. Edward Laane remains against moving patients to the mainland. While the press release made it look like the matter had been coordinated with him, it now turns out he is of a different mind entirely.

We will definitely be in agreement with our colleagues in Kuressaare, it's a non-issue. Talks that preceded the process were rather friendly and peaceful. I believe it is not a serious problem that we should be discussing. Firstly, we will be taking into account the patient's opinion, whether they want to be treated in another hospital. We will consider the opinion of attending physicians when making referral decisions. Doctors will come together, look at the patient's condition, talk to them, discuss clinical cases, evaluate test results and decide together whether the patient would benefit from being referred to another hospital.

Why is Dr. Laane opposed to your proposal if you have discussed everything so amicably?

I must admit that I don't know why Dr. Laane doesn't like it, but I believe the hospital staff will definitely benefit from reduced workload as some patients will be moved to the mainland. We could say they will be able to catch their breath in this battle, get more rest and make fewer mistakes. We will find common ground here as we want to help our colleagues. We do not want to remove anyone from Saaremaa by force, that is not the plan. We have a Defense Forces field hospital in Kuressaare and we need to plan for its removal. It is a strategic process that needs to move forward.

The fact that the field hospital is half-empty begs the question of why move patients to the mainland in a situation where they could be treated there.

A field hospital has its limitations. Its intended purpose is to treat traumas. Regular hospital beds are far more comfortable than a field hospital's accommodation. Patients cannot stay there for long. A field hospital is a temporary solution that we planned to use should Kuressaare Hospital no longer be able to accommodate all patients.

Because we can see the situation stabilizing today, we can conclude that the field hospital has played its part and done everything we expected it to do. That allows us to think about when they can head home. But we need to see a trend of stabilization in terms of the number of people hospitalized first. Secondly, Kuressaare Hospital must have the capacity to admit patients, separate them into groups, have a clean and contaminated zone before the field hospital can leave the island.

Rumor has it this is not the first time Dr. Laane disagrees in terms of appropriate medical care.

I must say that Dr. Laane and I always find common ground. When we talk it out, we always find we want the same thing, what's best for our patients.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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