Tartu University Hospital crisis team chief forecasts difficult times ahead

Coronavirus triage tent outside of the emergency room at Tartu University Hospital.
Coronavirus triage tent outside of the emergency room at Tartu University Hospital. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Joel Starkopf, head of the University of Tartu Hospital's crisis management team, forecasts difficult times for hospitals due to the coronavirus, the regional Tartu Postimees reports.

Coronavirus patients treated at the hospital numbered 46 during the spring virus wave. The fall wave saw over 30 more patients admitted to the hospital, bringing their total number to 79. A number of new patients, most of them over the age of 50, have been transported to the hospital from Ida-Viru County. No coronavirus deaths have occurred in the hospital this fall.

Coronavirus statistics in Estonia appear alarming and daily infection figures seem much more severe compared with the spring emergency situation. While on April 6, the infection rate for the preceding 14 days was 56 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, by November 7 the figure had more than doubled to 128.9 cases. The share of positive test results among all coronavirus tests conducted per day was close to 5 percent at the start of April, whereas now it is nearly 10 percent.

Starkopf noted that the figures from the two periods are not directly comparable as the volume of tests conducted in spring was smaller. He also pointed out the number of people in need of hospital treatment, which is currently lower. In April, the tensest periods saw 150 coronavirus patients hospitalized in Estonia, whereas currently the number stands at 56. This means that in spring, 15 percent of all people diagnosed with the coronavirus required hospital treatment. The corresponding figure in the fall has been 8-9 percent.

The head of the hospital's crisis management team said that at present, milder cases of the virus are also found due to the higher number of tests conducted, which in turn reduces the share of cases requiring hospitalization. The virus has definitely not become any less severe compared with spring and the routes of infection have remained unchanged. The virus has caused severe infections this fall, too.

A prognosis by Krista Fischer and Mario Kadastik, who have been modeling the spread of the virus, estimates that the number of coronavirus patients in need of hospital treatment will grow to 350 by mid-December. One-sixth or one-fifth of these cases will require intensive care, which Estonia will be able to cope with. 

"It will be a strenuous effort for doctors and nurses, but this isn't the wave that will hit us over the head," Starkopf said.

Mechanical ventilators number 65 at the University of Tartu Hospital and anesthesia machines 35. Additional 25 mechanical ventilators will be delivered to the hospital in November. 

The hospital staff now definitely has more experience, and they are also aided by new scientific publications on the virus, Starkopf noted.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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