If rates of COVID-19 infections continue at the level they are on now, a major decrease or even a complete suspension of scheduled treatments in hospitals could be unavoidable, Urmas Sule, the current head of Pärnu Hospital and next Health Board crisis department chief, told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Wednesday evening.
Are you a believer in masks?
Certainly. If we take how we can realistically affect this virus, we actually know the period of infection is abour 14 days, we cannot change that. We can stop the virus from spreading, meaning keeping distance, having less contacts and protecting ourselves and our colleagues from the virus by wearing masks and washing hands.
You have a new position coming up, you are about to lead a very important department. You are also the person to ask - when will hospitals reach capacity?
We are acting in a way that we are planning our actions about two weeks ahead. We have also dealt with that tonight (Wednesday - ed.). We are trying to find the most reasonable solutions. Increasing hospital capacities is not just a matter of numbers, but there are people behind it and a cooperation between hospitals. We are dealing with that each day and trying to beat time.
I think we have taken our readiness to a reasonable level and the numbers we are talking about are realizing faster than we initially predicted - I mean the opening of bed places.
People go to hospitals for other reasons. Is there a plan to stop scheduled treatments anytime soon?
We are trying to do everything in hospitals to stop that from happening. It is an added complication in that sense. But in the long term, if the infection rate were to continue at this pace, the complete suspension or a major decrease in scheduled treatments will be unavoidable.
If we are speaking of treating the coronavirus, then we are surely smarter now than in spring. But what are the bottlenecks of Estonian hospitals? Is there a lack of people, missing space, technical solutions?
It is people. If there is a virus spreading in society, it is naive to expect it to not spread in hospitals. It is coming from outside the hospital, from inside the hospital, whether we like it or not. Protecting people and using them reasonably is the greatest priority.
Compared to spring, we have a very important strength - we have enough protective equipment, we have experience on how to deal with this disease. We do not have a vaccine yet, but we are getting smarter by the day.
I'll ask you - as a believer in masks - about schools. Students could go to school for another three weeks - are you of that mind or should high school classes continue in remote learning?
I certainly would not talk over or comment on decisions made by people higher up. One thing we must consider is reasonable behavior.
But I did not mention one thing earlier, we actually have another weapon that could tip the scales our way and that is communication. The virus period has been long, we are all exhausted and want to get out tomorrow and that is a situation where emotions tend to boil over. There is no better call here - let us try and be respectful of each other, listen to what others say and that small weapon can strengthen society greatly. Before all, it means communication with our frontline workers, meaning health care, the Police and Border Guard Board, the Rescue Board and many others. If we do that, we will certainly win.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste