Eight coronavirus patients can be taken from hospitals in northern Estonia to the south each day, medical chiefs have agreed.
The agreement was reached between hospitals on Tuesday and will help alleviate the burden on health workers in the north of Estonia where bed capacity has been reached. On Tuesday, four patients were taken to Tartu University Hospital.
"These are, above all, Covid-19 patients in need of general ward treatment. First, they will be brought to Tartu University Hospital, but there is also a possibility that depending on their condition and beds they can be treated in Viljandi, Võru or Järva County Hospital," said the head of Tartu University Hospital Joel Starkopf.
Patients are transported by Tartu Ambulance Service but the journeys will not affect day-to-day operations, head of the ambulance service Veronika Reinhard said.
She said the 2.5-hour journey may be difficult for some people: "But the ambulance staff is there to alleviate their ailments and provide them with the most convenient transportation time possible."
Patients being treated in intensive care are rarely moved between Tallinn and Tartu, only those who need space on a general ward.
"The situation with intensive care units is tense. Over the last two weeks, we have been forced to increase our number of intensive care beds, initially by 10 places, now by 12 places. So we are treating half or a third more people in intensive care than usual," Starkopf said.
There are currently almost 700 coronavirus patients in hospitals across Estonia and more than 500 of them are being treated in hospitals in the north.
Starkopf said if the infection rate rises in the south and more patients need to be admitted then scheduled treatment in all Estonian hospitals may need to be stopped.
Editor: Helen Wright