Hospitals have begun to close coronavirus wards

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Järvamaa Hospital. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Many hospitals have either completely or partially closed their coronavirus wards. However, people awaiting hospital treatment must still wait as intensive care units are still burdened by the virus and the over-worked healthcare workers need a few days off to recover.

The coronavirus pandemic has not hit only the major hospitals of Tallinn, but also smaller county hospitals as well. In fact, there have been times in the COVID-19 ward of Läänemaa Hospital this year where there are more coronavirus patients being treated than there were places.

"At the peak, we have had 19 patients on our 18 bed places, we have even had to get an extra bed there," said hospital chief Edvard Garder. "This stems from us not being able to send them anywhere else and the problem usually got solved in two-three days."

As of Wednesday, there were three patients in Haapsalu and Garder said it is impractical to maintain a 18-bed ward for such a small number of patients. The hospital hopes to receive a permit to close the ward by the end of the ongoing week.

Rapla Hospital is built in a way that does not allow for the ward to be closed partially, however. "If all goes well and we all act reasonably, we may talk about it in the start of May, Rapla Hospital can continue without a coronavirus ward in the second half of May," said Rapla Hospital chief Pille Mukk.

It is still possible to give up six beds and that is also an important victory, the hospital chief said, adding that the nurses taking care of six coronavirus patients can now treat 15 regular patients.

Health Board emergency medicine chief Urmas Sule said it is not possible to reduce the number of intensive care units meant for coronavirus patients before May but hospitals can gradually begin treating patients that have been on hold. The return of scheduled treatments will likely take time, however.

"It seems currently that 500 COVID-19 patients is a small number. I would like to remind everyone of the start of the year, 500 patients seemed like a wild number then. We must face reality, there is a high likelihood the need for hospital treatment will fall, but 500 patients is a very high number, the need for intensive care alone is still high. We look over our plans each week and will act accordingly," Sule said.

East Tallinn Central Hospital has already closed one ward as the number of patients has decreased by a third. The recovery of scheduled treatments is however slowed by the exhaustion of nurses, many of them have worked 250 hours a month over the current wave of COVID-19.

"Many-many people have taken on a 1.5 load with overtime, people will get tired at one point and we desperately need to find them an option to take some time off in this transition period," the hospital's chief Ralf Allikvee said.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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