Hospital chief: Healthcare on brink of crisis, hinges on public's behavior

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Arkadi Popov Source: ERR/ Romi Hasa

Estonia's healthcare system is on the brink of major crisis, which can only be headed off by responsible public behavior over the Christmas and New Year period, head of the West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTKH) Doctor Arkadi Popov says.

Speaking at a Tallinn city government press conference Wednesday, Popov said: "As of today we know that we have 227 bed spaces for COVID-19 patients in the Northern medical office region, including Tallinn and Harju County, but also western Estonia and Lääne-Viru County."

Popov noted 264 people are currently hospitalized nationwide, with 13 of them on ventilators, due to the virus.

"Bed occupancy is not very critical for us right now; we can handle things in the northern region. However, bed occupancy at LTKH is already at 80-90 percent for the week," Popov went on.

Redistribution of patients between different hospitals – a process already under way in parts of Estonia – may be necessary in the capital, meaning both the sick and their relatives should be prepared for this outcome, which would be possible given the fullness of the northern district's resources as noted above.

Some hospitals are also looking for additional staff, Popov, who used to head up the Health Board's (Terviseamet) emergency medical department, added.

Scheduled treatments will continue as long as possible, Popov added, but this depended on the public adhering to regulations.

The latest round of government regulations represented an about turn on statements made by two government ministers – education minister Jaak Aab and social affairs Tanel Kiik (both from the Center Party) – earlier in the week, that schools shouldn't go to remote learning; the prime minister announced Wednesday that in fact all schools and universities will break up for Christmas come Monday.

Popov said the public should behave responsibly and avoid shopping malls and events before Christmas; they should also be masked in public places. On this hinges hospitals being overloaded within the next week to week-and-a-half and the continuation of scheduled treatment, he said.

"Forecasts predict that if the infection rate does not fall and the behavior pattern does not change in Estonia, then in about two or three weeks we might see 700 infectious patients in hospital; then we would be talking about no planned treatment and entering into a deep health care crisis," the doctor said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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