Raul Adlas, chief medical officer of Tallinn's ambulance service, said that hospitals have been forced to suspend certain scheduled treatments due to the spread of the coronavirus in fall.
Adlas said on ETV's daily affairs show "Ringvaade" on Monday that the Health Board (Terviseamet) recently announced a second-level situation, meaning that some hospital departments have had to reorganize.
"The departments where cardiological or neurological patients were treated, have to be prepared to take in infection patients starting this week," Adlas said.
The chief medical officer called people to wear masks and to follow state regulations, helping avoid a critical limit for the Estonian health care system.
Adlas said: "We are around the half-way line for that limit, certainly above the norm. This means that the people who were awaiting scheduled receptions to cardiology, neurology, surgery, orthopedics, must unfortunately wait for their treatments, because the infection has reached the hospital."
"This is where we are now. This is the second level, where we reorganize receptions at hospitals and general patients must wait a little," the head of Tallinn's ambulance service added.
He noted that hospitals have greater certainty in handling the situation this wave. "We can use plans, documents, directives, we can choose between those depending on how the virus develops. Secondly, this second wave of the virus perhaps came a little different than the first and we are just now in the situation of hospitals reaching capacity. The first wave came more abruptly. In that sense, it is similar but it is also different."
Adlas said the ambulance service's work has not changed: "Ambulance is still working as it has. 800 patients daily across Estonia call 112 and the ambulance responds. /.../ The ambulance is fighting on the front line in the most direct sense and each patient of the 800 is potentially infected with COVID and this means we must protect us, our close ones and other patients from them."
He explained that a single Tallinn ambulance crew uses some 800 sets of protective equipment a day. "We respond to each call as if they were a coronavirus patient to protect ourselves but also to not carry the disease on to a next patient and the next one after that. For this purpose, we are using protective equipment for each call," Adlas explained.
"True, for the patients that we know have the coronavirus, we use the maximum set of equipment, equipment used for others stands somewhere in between," Adlas concluded.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste