'Critical' situation at Tallinn, north Estonian hospitals

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A health care worker treating a coronavirus patient at Tallinn's North Estonia Medical Center. Source: PERH

Hospitals in Tallinn and north Estonia are running out of beds to treat patients with coronavirus. Hospitals in other regions are helping with equipment and bed space but are also seeing a rise in patients.

On Monday, ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported hospitals are fast running out of beds and staff to treat patients with coronavirus despite daily reorganization.

At East Tallinn Central Hospital there were no free beds left on Monday afternoon and new COVID-19 patients will now to be sent to other hospitals in Estonia.

Ene Halling, the head of treatment at the hospital, said: "At around 10 this morning, we were able to create seven free beds. By the weekend, all of our beds were occupied and now these seven beds already have new patients."

West Tallinn Central Hospital needs to find additional staff before it can create more free beds, said Pille Märtin, head of the Infection Control Department. The hospital had 90 percent occupancy on Monday morning and there is the possibility to open 24 more beds in the coming days, AK reported.

The Health Board's crisis manager Urmas Sule said additional equipment is needed in both hospitals and they have asked for assistance. "We will distribute resources and the Defense Forces will come to the rescue here," Sule said.

Patients from the north of the country are already being treated in other hospitals and many have been taken to Pärnu Hospital.

Veiko Vahula, board member of Pärnu hospital, told AK: "Since the start of March, 17 patients from Pärnu and Pärnu County and 11 patients from other counties have been hospitalized in Pärnu hospital. Mostly from Harju County, but also from our neighboring counties."

Sule said the situation has also become more complicated in other hospitals in Estonia. 

"Recently, there has been a very large increase in the number of patients in the Lääne-Viru region, which means that Rakvere Hospital is in a very difficult situation. The situation is similar in Saaremaa, Kuressaare Hospital has a lot of covid patients," said Sule.

In the southern region, the number of infections is not yet as high as in the north, but the number of people being hospitalized is also rising.

The Health Board has turned to health care colleges and the University of Tartu to help fill the staff shortage with medical students but many students with the relevant medical skills are already working in Estonian hospitals.

On Sunday, Professor Krista Fischer, a member of the government's scientific advisory council, wrote on social media that Estonia's medical system has reached its capacity limit.

"We are in actuality in a situation where medicine has reached its capacity limit, not to speak of other problems related to such a high infection rate. As a matter of fact, this limit has been crossed already, as scheduled treatments have been discontinued to a large extent and also the provision of emergency aid is strongly disturbed," Fischer said. 

On Monday Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) announced plans for a lockdown and the government agreed on new restrictions on Monday evening.

The new restrictions, moving all education to distance learning and closing non-essential stores and restaurants, will come into effect on Thursday, March 11 and initially last for a month.

The country will effectively be in lockdown, similar to the emergency situation last spring.

Last week, 9,570 new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Estonia, a record high.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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