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Hundreds more coronavirus bed spaces required, at cost of other treatments

Main lobby at Tartu University Hospital (TÜK).
Main lobby at Tartu University Hospital (TÜK). Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Planned increases in coronavirus bed spaces could jeopardize scheduled treatments and the rest of the healthcare system, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Saturday evening, with one hospital leader saying hundreds of bed spaces will need to be made available as rates soar.

Leaders from two major hospitals in Estonia, Joel Starkopf from the Tartu University Hospital and Agris Peedu of the North Estonian Regional Hospital (PERH) say that when capacities are reallocated to coronavirus patients from December 10, strain will be put on other areas of medicine.

Tartu University Hospital is treating 26 COVID-19 patients in its infectious diseases department, eight of them in intensive care, Starkopf told AK, noting that average recovery rates are longer than for other illnesses, with that situation not set to get any better.

He said: "Currently, forecasts say the number of people in need of our hospital treatment will rise to 300 to 600 per Estonia. As present, there are 220 people in hospital in Estonia. This means that the number of patients will triple. This means the end of all planned activities in the hospital," Starkopf said.

Starkopf said: "One patient's treatment lasts an average of 15 days, ad the need for beds is growing. Consequently, we have been forced to enlarge the infectious diseases department. Where we initially had 11 beds, then 20, now there are 40 beds housed in the infectious diseases department."

The cost is beds in other departments, Starkopf said, noting that two or three operating rooms at the hospital may need to be closed on Monday to reroute staff to coronavirus wards, meaning scheduled operations will be halted.

Saturday saw 561 new coronavirus cases, a record for a single day in the pandemic so far. Seventy-seven of the cases came at a care home for the elderly in Loksa, near Tallinn, the bulk of them among the home's residents.

Tartu County's recent coronavirus numbers per capita have been catching up with Harju County's, the most populous region of Estonia.

Urmas Sule, the head of the Health Board's (Terviseamet) crisis unit, told AK that the same picture could be found nationwide.

Sule said: "As of Saturday morning, there were 239 patients in hospital, and this number will surely rise. If the number of patients in hospitals increases, it will spell individual changes for each hospital which must be made, and this will also affect scheduled treatment."

At PERH, in Tallinn, transitioning to an alert stage higher than the current A4 level, or even if things stay as they are, will require 15 more beds for COVID-19 cases, and 14 out of 28 tertiary intensive care units will need to be assigned to coronavirus, Agris Peedu said.

Peedu told AK that this: "Really hinders scheduled surgery, because patients undergoing elective surgery may also require tertiary intensive care after surgery. This is a matter of finding a balance between what operations we do to provide tertiary intensive care to all patients."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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