University of Tartu Hospital reducing scheduled treatment by half

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

The University of Tartu hospital is preparing to treat an increasing number of COVID-19 patients and will reduce the number of scheduled treatments by half, regional newspaper Tartu Postimees reported on Thursday.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has been worse than ever before in the past few days," Joel Starkopf, head of the crisis management committee of the University of Tartu Hospital, said.

A large number of coronavirus infections are emerging in Estonia on a daily basis, among whom the share of people aged younger than 50 is the largest. The number of coronavirus patients in need of hospital treatment is also on the rise. Unless the infection rate changes, Estonia will average close to 2,000 new cases per day by mid-March, which will put enormous pressure on hospitals, Starkopf said.

Starkopf pointed out a problem that has not been discussed at length so far - the increasing number of coronavirus patients requiring long-term care, including intensive care. Seemingly, there have not been any significant changes in the hospital's coronavirus patient statistics over the past two weeks and the number of patients remains at around 50 to 60.

"There are currently six patients in intensive care in the University of Tartu Hospital who need to be isolated due to a risk of infection," Starkopf said on Wednesday.

The Health Board's reports only includes such cases, as a result of which the total number seems small. However, there are still eight more COVID-19 patients in intensive care who need mechanical ventilation but who do not need to be isolated. Despite not being reflected in the national report, these patients require a significant share of resources in intensive care. One such patient has been hospitalized for 67 days, for others, the duration of treatment ranges from 27 to 41 days. All these patients require treatment and a bed.

As there are also COVID-19 patients in need of long-term treatment in other departments of the hospital, including in rehabilitation, the crisis management committee had to make the decision to reduce other treatment.

"We're reducing scheduled inpatient surgical work up to 50 percent to free up anesthetists, nurses and doctors for work in intensive care," Starkopf said.

The hospital aims to continue outpatient appointments unless in cases where the relevant staff has been assigned to the work of the COVID-19 ward.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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