Tallinn ambulance chief: COVID-19 challenges spells change of tactics

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Head of Tallinn's ambulance service Raul Adlas says that his organization needs to re-allocate its resources and alter its practices after soaring coronavirus rates led to a situation over the weekend where call-outs were coming every twenty minutes. He also said that the situation will reach meltdown if the general public does not follow the restrictions.

Appearing on ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade", Adlas said that so far as the service goes, and despite the spike in COVID-19 rates, the situation is a "normal" one rather than an emergency, meaning all challenges will be met in terms of service.

Adlas likened recent days to the New Year's period.

"We're working on something like New Year's Eve mode at present, but every single day is like New Year's and its just going on and on," he told Ringvaade.

Those not in a life-threatening situation may have to wait longer for an ambulance than normal, he added, while further triaging may be needed if rates continue to increase, leaving some of the least serious cases needing an alternative to an ambulance.

He said: "Should there be any extraordinary situation where the number of coronavirus patients triples, these will be prioritized in line with the severity of the injury or illness in question, while not everyone will receive [ambulance] help."

While ambulances by their nature have to operate during emergencies, the difference with the pandemic is its ongoing nature, as compared with a human or natural disaster, for instance, he added.

Given the large number of COVID-19 patients, other patients could be at risk, making public adherence to restrictions paramount, he said.

"This is why we are asking the public to help us and let us deal with heart attacks, strokes and stomach issues. We can do that when there aren't so many coronavirus cases," he went on.

Tactics thus needed changing in terms of scheduled treatments in fighting the "enemy", he said.

The service is already at half its disaster level capacity, he added, with the main issue – given that material has been stockpiled and the service is prepared – being a human resources one.

While the ambulance service has already been transporting patients as far afield (from Tallinn) as Pärnu, if the situation gets even more out-of-hand, with no more scope to free up bed spaces, non-COVID-9 patients may need taking to other countries for treatment, Adlas said, expressing a hope that this doesn't end up being the case.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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