If the coronavirus continues to spread at its current rate, hospital intensive care units will be full by year-end, and will mean patients receiving such care who have coronavirus will not be treated separately from those who do not, deputy of health at the Health Board (Terviseamet) and military doctor Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Ahti Varblane told ERR Monday.
This may well mean a situation arising where people should be allowed to die at home, with the family, rather than being transported to hospital where they will be surrounded by strangers and will in many cases likely die in any case.
Lt. Col. Varblane told ERR that: "To date, two separate spheres have emerged – coronavirus patients and other patients. However, if the situation [with the viral spread] continues on the same trajectory, we will start to see the patients treated in one single stream."
Lt. Col. Varblane said that this melding together of previously triaged groups would take place in a matter of weeks, primarily with respect to intensive care units.
The phenomenon had already been on the table in spring, he added, also pointing out the grim realities of recent figures, where deaths have been reported more days than not.
"In today's society, death has become something of an unexpected and exceptional event. Sometimes it feels as though people want to be both born at home and die there, but perhaps it should be the case that people are born in a hospital and die at home. Death is still a natural part of the life cycle, after all," he said.
"Does it make more sense to take a person who is suffering to the hospital, to carry out a lot of invasive procedures, knowing that it is unlikely to prolong life – maybe for just a few weeks or a month – and will certainly not improve the quality of life?"
This might even mean that whereas in the past ambulances might have been summonsed for seriously sick patients, perhaps now this should be off the table and individuals might be better of dying at home, with family and friends.
The issue was also highly emotionally charged, he noted.
Following requirements for social distancing, mask-wearing etc. just might imporve the situation, he added, ahead of any vaccine reaching Estonia.
"Medicine is a response to this situation; it eliminates the consequences, but it is people who are causing this scenario," he added.
Late last month a gathering protesting the mandatory use of masks attracted about 200-300 people.
Editor: Andrew Whyte