Doctor: Complacency over COVD-19 rates may spell health care meltdown

PERH chief Peep Talving.
PERH chief Peep Talving. Source: ERR

Due primarily to public irresponsibility relating to a perception in reduced risk surrounding the coronavirus, there are virtually no free spaces in intensive care wards in northern Estonia, including Tallinn, one major hospital says.

The North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) in Tallinn says that an overall feeling of relief associated with the decline in COVID-19 infection rates does not alter the fact that intensive care units in the northern region are in a completely critical situation, and the risk of the epidemic continuing is far from over, a PERH spokesperson said Monday.

Doctors remind the public that traveling abroad on its own constitutes risk-taking, and if a trip goes ahead, to self-quarantining and self-monitoring regarding health are essential on return, BNS reports.

Doctors say are concerned about the additional risks associated with trips during the school holidays, especially with the possible spread of new, more potent viral mutations.

"If you came from a trip, please self-isolate for at least 10 days and be sure to take a COVID-19 test before returning to the circle of people you interact with," Talving said, according to BNS.

"COVID-19 intensive care beds of the medical center are all full; there is one bed at the East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITKH), Peep Talving, PERH medical director and head of the northern region's medical headquarters.

The problem extends beyond the northern region – which includes much of the country's population; Pärnu Hospital's capacity is limited, due to a lack of staff, he added.

The average duration of treatment of the 174 COVID-19 patients who were in intensive care at PERH through the year was 15 days, with the longest treatment period ending 62 days, Talving said.

The issue is heightened by the fact that around 40 percent of those admitted to intensive care who have the coronavirus do not make it, while fatalities are not confined to the elderly.

"The youngest of the COVID-19 patients currently in intensive care is 29; the youngest patient to die so far was 37," Talving said.

"40 percent of COVID-19 intensive care cases end in death, and mortality is even higher among those over 60 - half of those to reach intensive care die in that case," he added.

Talving said continued caution was essential, including adhering to social distancing, mask-wearing and hygiene norms, while getting vaccinated as soon as possible should be the goal.

Failing to do all this could lead to another major spike in infection rates, he added.

"If we lose focus too early against the current background of declining infection rates, the risk of a new, third wave is high. This, in turn, would man that already overworked doctors could not return to normal work or rest. We may thus have to wrestle with high numbers of intensive care patients throughout the summer. All in all, we put the entire public health at great risk," Talving added.

According to Health Board (Terviseamet) data, as of Monday morning, 407 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19, 62 of them in intensive care, nationwide.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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