Tartu University Hospital said on Friday their normal operating rhythm has been severely disrupted. Two of four adult intensive care units have now been converted into COVID-19 units.
As of Friday, 66 patients with coronavirus were being treated in isolation at the hospital in Estonia's second largest city. Eleven people were in intensive care.
The hospital said in a statement the treatment of COVID-19 patients is complex and time-consuming. Patients tend to stay twice as long in hospital as others and there is an eight-fold higher hospital mortality rate.
Scheduled treatment is being postponed to cope with the increased workload. Waiting lists for surgery are now growing and there is reduced access to specialist care.
Joel Starkopf, professor of anesthesiology and intensive care at the University of Tartu, said most of the patients in treatment are unvaccinated. They are getting the disease as severely as during the first and second waves.
"Vaccinated people who have been hospitalized have a milder and shorter course of illness than unvaccinated patients. Only a few have required intensive treatment, with comorbidities playing a significant role in the course of the disease in their case," Starkopf said.
The number of patients in hospital is likely to double by the end of the month as the situation worsens. Starkopf said Estonia is again in a similar situation as in March and April 2021.
"This can be changed by vaccination. We strongly urge people, please get vaccinated against COVID-19!" Starkopf said.
Tartu University Hospital is the biggest hospital in south Estonia and treats people from across the region.
The rate of coronavirus has been high in the south for several weeks while vaccination coverage is lower than average in several southern counties, such as Valga and Võru.
How can the spread of coronavirus be stopped?
- The most efficient measure is keeping your distance.
- Wear a mask in crowded places.
- Closed, crowded spaces should be avoided if possible.
- Hands must be washed frequently with soap and warm water.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
- If you develop symptoms stay at home and contact a family doctor.
Editor: Helen Wright