Allikvee: No more than five hospitals should take care of COVID-19 patients

Ralf Allikvee.
Ralf Allikvee. Source: East Tallinn Central Hospital

CEO of the East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITK) Ralf Allikvee finds that no more than five hospitals should take care of coronavirus patients in Estonia and that the remaining hospitals should return to planned surgeries. The emergency situation has left the hospital empty, with only ITK's oncology department working full time.

ITK has treated 1,600 fewer in-patient care patients compared to last year due to the emergency situation.

Allikvee says that it makes no sense to have coronavirus patients in all hospitals as many beds are left empty. The Health Board should choose which hospitals should concentrate on COVID-19 patients and which should start scheduled treatments again.

How is life at ITK hospitals these days? Have you lost many patients compared to the situation before the outbreak?

We have roughly the same number of patients in nursing care that has luckily not been touched by the coronavirus. In the Magdaleena Unit, one floor is being renovated, while other floors have considerably fewer patients, with the number cut in half in rehabilitation. Only oncology is working at full capacity there. We have two COVID-19 wards with 49 beds on Ravi Street and a coronavirus intensive care room that currently has nine beds and room for six more. The rest of the facility is almost empty.

Considering the relatively low number of infected people in Harju County and Tallinn, could planned treatments be resumed?

They should.

During the past month of the emergency situation, we have treated 1,364 fewer patients in day treatment and 1,574 people in in-patient care. There are no cataract surgeries, hip and knee prosthetic surgeries, vertebral surgeries.

All chronically ill people who can get by without coming to the hospital are staying at home. The transition needs to start, while I cannot tell you how it will be done. It requires substantial agreements as all hospitals have coronavirus patients right now. What we need to realize is that COVID-19 is here to stay!

We need to be prepared for new outbreaks, but it needs to be decided which hospitals will remain clean so to speak and which will treat coronavirus patients.

Having a COVID-19 patient in every hospital is not sensible. Which Tallinn hospital could be reserved for them? Is it the East Tallinn Central Hospital, West Tallinn Central Hospital or the North Estonia Medical Center (PERH)?

It is not sensible to treat coronavirus patients in all hospitals.

Looking at it from our perspective, ITK is the only hospital that does not have many isolation options. While we are using gateways and other options, these are meant primarily for the safety of staff and, of course, patients.

But the West Tallinn Central Hospital has a special infectious diseases ward. PERH, as the newest hospital, has a lot of isolators.

Who should take the first step to return to regular treatment in hospitals? When the crisis began, we had no idea how many people could be infected with the virus. We have a much clearer picture now as the situation has stabilized.

According to Estonians law, the decision is up to the Health Board. No hospital can decide who it treats in the agency's stead. It is a national level decision.

How quickly could you return to planned surgeries? How many days would it take?

It will take well over a week as rooms refitted for the purpose of treating COVID-19 need to be turned back to normal hospital rooms. The building needs to be cleaned and disinfected. Nothing will happen overnight.

How many hospitals could exclusively treat coronavirus patients?

No more than five.

Hospitals working under isolated conditions need to continue what they're doing. Daily transport of passengers from Saaremaa is quite difficult. Nature acting up could ground helicopters or keep ferries locked in port. Hospitals on the mainland need to be designated for coronavirus treatment.

Is the board scared to make that decision?

I do not comment on the Health Board's decisions.

How are you coping financially in the conditions of having fewer patients?

We are the most effective hospital. We will make do in April, while we will have to count on banks come May.

How much money will you need?

Quite a few million.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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