Crisis leaders preparing to announce highest level of emergency

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A COVID-19 department at the North Estonia Medical Center. Source: North Estonia Medical Center

The Health Board's crisis unit is preparing to announce the first-ever third-level emergency in Estonia and according to Health Board chief Üllar Lanno, the emergency would have to be called once the number of hospitalized patients hits 1,500.

As the ongoing coronavirus wave is still picking up steam, the pressure already mounted on the healthcare system is growing even heavier. The Health Board has now began preparing to announce a third-level emergency, the highest level.

"If we are taking so there are 80-100 patients coming on each day, there will be a thousand people hospitalized in ten days. We have some thousand beds covered, so there is not too much time to think," Lanno told ERR on Tuesday. "If the number of hospitalized patients is around 1,500, the decision will likely have to be made."

Urmas Sule, head of the Health Board's crisis unit, said preparations to announce a third-level emergency are ongoing. He admits that it would be the first such situation in Estonian history as there has never been a situation as difficult as the current coronavirus pandemic.

"The greatest challenge for hospitals and the entire healthcare system will be organizing treatments for everyone not infected with COVID in a way that would not see availability suffer. But we must first clearly state that if the number of COVID patients increases, it will be a great challenge," Sule said.

Triage instructions are already being drawn up to give medics a basis on which to decide who will receive treatment and who might miss out on it. According to the crisis unit chief, announcing an emergency is not to decrease the availability of medical care.

"The point of announcing an emergency level is for us to have a clear framework that gives people adequate help in the most complicated situation but on the other hand gives healthcare workers confidence that even in a situation where we have extremely few resources, it is possible to make important medical decisions. We hope this third level is not necessary but you never know," Sule explained.

If a third-level emergency were to be announced, all scheduled treatments would be suspended and hospitals would only offer emergency assistance.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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