Tartu's third coronavirus wave started earlier than previously thought

Tartu University Hospital.
Tartu University Hospital. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

An increase in the numbers of covid-19 patients in Tartu University Hospital started much earlier than was believed in the summer, Tartu Postimees reported. Currently, there is a lack of medical staff which has been exacerbated with every outbreak.

"Whereas yesterday there were 71 coronavirus patients being treated at the hospital, a week ago there were 56, and 51 a week earlier. And 42 three weeks ago, which means mid-August," Andres Kotsar, the hospital's medical director, said on Monday. 

The official figures provided by the hospital are lower as they only include contagious coronavirus patients, who numbered 57 on Monday. Eight of these patients required intensive care and seven of these were on using a ventilator.

The age of the patients ranges from 17 to 72 years. As many as 99.9 percent of the patients are infected with the delta strain and 80 percent are unvaccinated.

In April, the highest number of coronavirus patients in hospital on a single day was 121. This was as many as the hospital could handle, Kotsar said. Only by canceling all scheduled treatment would it have been possible to open more intensive care beds.

This summer has also been different from the summer of 2020, when there were no coronavirus patients in the hospital.

This summer the coronavirus ward never closed. The 20-bed unit was kept in full readiness and there were always patients. Before the pandemic, there were only 11 places in the hospital's infectious diseases department.

At present, coronavirus patients make up 12 percent of all patients requiring active treatment at the hospital, up from 10 percent last week and 9 percent two weeks ago.

"What worries me the most is that with each successive wave we have found it harder to staff the covid departments," Kotsar said. "There are not enough doctors and nurses. And the human aspect of this has to be understood, as everyone would like work in their own specialty."

Tartu University Hospital is the main hospital in South Estonia and currently has three covid departments. Departments 1 and 2 operate together, making up a large infection unit with 40 beds. That unit is well staffed with doctors and nurses. The third department, a unit operating under the lung clinic, has 21 beds, but currently only has capacity for 14 coronavirus patients.

"If we can't get the third department working at full capacity, we'll have to cut back on scheduled work even more in order to have people free of other duties," the hospital's medical director said. "There's no hiding the fact that staffing the covid departments is the biggest challenge right now." 


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Editor: Helen Wright

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