Doctors are calling on the government to set a limit on the number of beds allocated for coronavirus patients. After this, medics will need to decide who to treat and vaccination status may play a role.
The Estonian Medical Association on Wednesday said Estonia must be prepared for a situation where the health care system has to choose between coronavirus patients and others who are in need of emergency care.
As hospitals cannot go on opening new coronavirus wards indefinitely because staff resources are limited, the association called for assistance from the government.
"Estonia has become the country with the highest coronavirus infection rate in the world. Since we have many unvaccinated people among the infected in whom the course of the illness is more severe, the number of coronavirus patients in need of hospitalization increases every day," the doctors' union said.
The association said vaccination against COVID-19 should be considered when admitting someone to hospital as it has a significant impact on treatment outcomes.
"It can be seen very clearly that vaccinated coronavirus patients are much more likely to recover and the duration of their treatment is shorter. This does not mean that only vaccinated people will be admitted to hospital, but if we have to make difficult choices in a disaster medicine situation, we have to take all the circumstances into account," said the president of the association Jaan Sutt.
Katrin Elmet, chairperson of the ethics committee of the Estonian Medical Association and a member of the clinical ethics committee of Tartu University Hospital, added that medical care has become unfairly inaccessible to many people.
This is particularly acutely perceived by those who have protected their own health and that of others by vaccinating and complying with valid restrictions, she said.
"Patients must be treated equally, so there is no moral justification for providing hospital places only for coronavirus patients. If there are not enough facilities to treat everyone, taking into account the prognosis of recovery when making a choice is consistent with medical ethics," Elmet said.
"The more vaccinated people we have, the greater the chance that such choices can be avoided and all patients in a serious condition will get help. We ask everyone to get vaccinated," the association said in a statement.
As of Wednesday (November 3), 610 coronavirus patients are being treated in hospital. The limit for treatment is between 600-650, experts have said. The situation is not expected to get significantly better in the coming weeks.
Estonia's vaccination rate is 57.7 percent. The 14-day infection rate is 1,766.7 per 100,000 people.
Editor: Helen Wright