The restoration of scheduled hospital treatments has begun, after these were on hold as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and anticipated overload on the Estonian medical system. The services will be restored gradually, with strict guidelines in place to curb coronavirus infection risk. Due to its far higher coronavirus incidence, Kuressaare Hospital on Saaremaa will be organized separately. The plan covers private health clinics and dental treatment as well.
"The move towards scheduled treatment has to be gradual because the minimum requirements for healthcare providers are strict," said Dr Arkadi Popov, Health Board (Terviseamet) chief medical official for the emergency situation, who signed the order for recommencing scheduled treatment into being.
"In the current epidemiological situation, we must be careful and protect both the patients and health care staff."
"It is necessary to comply with the rules for enhanced control of infections and to restore regular health care services only when it is safe and controlled – which will be the responsibility of each and every health care institution," Dr Popov went on, according to a Health Board (Terviseamet) press release.
PPE and transmission-free treatment key criteria
"The most important prerequisite for resuming planned treatment is the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the transmission-free treatment process," said Director-General of the Health Board and Head of Emergency Merike Jürilo.
"The need for suspending scheduled treatments arose at the end of March as COVID-19 spread and all health care facilities lacked PPE, whose acquisition was difficult worldwide," she added.
The treatment of coronavirus-positive patients will be concentrated in seven higher-level hospitals, in addition to Kuressaare hospital on Saaremaa, by far the worst hit region of Estonia, which will be treated separately.
The Health Board has to date recommended offering remote medical services via phone and conference call as a first step in the resumption of scheduled treatments.
"Many people have been waiting for the restoration of scheduled treatment but unfortunately not all services will start immediately; this will be done gradually and under the conditions of strict infection controls," Merike Jürilo said.
"At the same time, PPE is essential to limit the spread of the virus. At the discretion of the treating physician, scheduled treatment during the restriction period was allowed, only in cases where discontinuing the treatment would have endangered the patient's health," she added.
Restoration of scheduled treatment Health Board guidelines in brief
- Requirements apply to scheduled outpatient and inpatient services in hospitals, family medical centers dental clinics, and private health institutions.
- Rooms for outpatient treatment must be separated from spaces intended for COVID-19 patients or reception times must be allocated separated.
- Dental patients and any others undergoing treatment where aerosols will be use need to have tested negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours of the beginning of treatment.
- If the above requirement is not met, medical staff must use additional PPE.
- Additional time must be scheduled for disinfecting surfaces between patients, as well as minimizing contact between patients coming, going and waiting.
- Patients must be aware that they will have to complete a COVID-19 health declaration, submit to a body temperature check and disinfect their hands on-site.
- Patients will be provided with a surgical mask while on-site, which they must don and wear at all times.
Editor: Andrew Whyte