Hospitals seeking more nurses to work in coronavirus wards

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PERH staff and facilities during the emergency situation. Source: Aivar Kullamaa/PERH

Hospitals are experiencing a shortage of nurses to treat coronavirus patients and hospital managers are concerned about where to find more workers. It is hoped nurses can be pulled from the private sector and by further reorganizing work in medical centers.

During a special committee meeting in the Riigikogu, hospital managers voiced concerns about staffing levels.

Head of East Tallinn Central Hospital Ralf Allikvee said the survival of hospitals depends on people sacrificing their freedom and following the new rules.

He also said staff duties could be changed to allow nurses to work more flexibly than normal.

"The law could be changed. In a pandemic situation, allow hospitals to temporarily assign additional tasks to employees that are not usually covered by employment contracts. The transferal of staff from one unit to another. Organize work in such a way as to employ the staff that exists today," he said.

Hospitals are now looking for help, especially among students and there are over 5,000 students at Tallinn Health Care College, University of Tartu and Tartu Health Care College.

The rector of Tallinn Health Care College Ülle Ernits said most of the students are still studying but if they are requested they could go to help.

However, not all students can work as nurses even if they can offer additional support to hospitals. Katre Zirel, head of nursing at the North Estonia Medical Center, said Estonia had a shortage of several thousand nurses before the pandemic started.

She said the last hope is in the private sector and if this does not work then scheduled treatment will need to be suspended.

"One resource is the resources from our own hospital - those departments that are still working today, no longer making plans, but serving emergency patients. But it will definitely affect time-critical patients," Zirel said.

ERR News reported yesterday that paramedics from the Defense Forces could help will 30 jobs. However, while this would offer additional support, it would not help with the shortage of nurses and due to staff rotations in the Defense Forces would not be sustainable if more people were requested, Targo Lusti, chief physician of the Defense Forces said.  

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Editor: Helen Wright

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