Emergency service call-outs in Tallinn have increased due to the spread of the coronavirus, even though ambulance crews no longer test individuals themselves.
The chief doctor of Tallinn Emergency Medical Service (Tallinna Kiirabi), Raul Adlas, said that the number of call-outs corresponds to all the changes happening in society, which is why the workload has increased in the capital over the last couple of days. The increased workload has been caused both by the wider spread of the virus and also the recent good weather, he said.
"People have had more time to enjoy themselves and the problems that have occurred have been related to the number of ambulance patients. Second, among younger children, seasonal upper respiratory diseases have started to appear, and they were also more patients at the weekend," Adlas said.
"The third aspect is an overall anxious mentality in society, which has been caused by COVDID-19," he noted.
Adlas emphasized that the ambulance can help with unexpected health problems, which may be related to coronavirus, for example loss of consciousness, severe pain or with difficulties in breathing. A family doctor can help with lesser issues. In cases of suspected coronavirus, a family doctor should be contacted since, generally, an ambulance crew doesn't take tests anymore.
"The ambulance carried out the tests during the emergency situation, when we had a very serious problem with the laboratory's capacity. Now, the family doctor gives a referral, the laboratory gets in contact with the patient, sets the time for the test and they have the capacity to take tests from people who are unable to walk. In these cases, a separate agreement can be made with the laboratory performing the test," Adlas explained.
Adlas said that sometimes, an ambulance is called out in panic, but this is not the only problem why people make emergency calls too lightly. The role of the ambulance is different in Estonia than it is in some other neighboring countries, he went on.
"Ambulances do make visits that do not necessarily end with the patients being taken to the hospital. However, the patient has health complaints which do not get solved via other means. We all know that the queues for specialists are quite long, and we don't always get to see a family doctor right away, so these tasks are assigned to an ambulance crew," Adlas said.
"Really, there are quite a lot of patients like this. We think that up to a third of our patients would find a solution to their health problem in a health center or at a specialist. The amount of these people has been largely stable; it increased a little with COVID-19, but not significantly," Adlas said.
The ambulance has continued to use personal protective equipment following the end of the emergency situation. If there is a risk of coronavirus, crews don something resemblind a spacesuit, and common practice is to use protective coats and masks. Adlas added that the ambulance has so far taken 327 coronavirus patients to hospital, with, fortunately, no employees have been infected.
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte