Hospitals across Estonia are only next year starting work on constructing nearly 150 additional isolation wards, planned in anticipation of a surge in Covid and other virus numbers in the winter, despite millions in European Union funds being earmarked for the purpose.
Minister of Labor and Health Peep Peterson (SDE) this week sent a letter to hospital managers, after an interim summary of projects that had received EU support revealed that only one hospital had signed a construction procurement contract, while only a few had reached a design contract.
The remainder are still preparing the design procurement and plan to leave their construction work until next year.
Peterson said: "Accordingly, we stress the importance of creating isolation wards to improve the healthcare system's preparedness and would ask you to make the implementation of these activities an immediate priority."
The ministry says it has decided to take on closer monitoring from now on, so hospitals have to report every quarter, in order to get information on how hospitals' isolation wards construction is going.
Additional isolation wards and ventilation systems are a stipulation in the government's Covid-19 preparedness plan ahead the winter months, in an effort to head of viral spread, while hospitals have been granted a total of €12.6 million in support from the European Regional Development Fund for the purpose, as well as for other projects such as preparedness in dealing with long-term power outages.
Just under €11 million was allocated to 16 hospitals for the creation of 146 additional isolation wards.
The Valga, Põlva, Rapla County, Rakvere, Läänemaa, Kuressaare, Narva, South Estonia, Pärnu, Viljandi and Järva County hospitals received Peterson's letter, as did the North Estonia Regional Hospital (PERH), the Tartu University Hospital, the West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTKH), Tallinn Children's Hospital and the Haapsalu neurological rehabilitation center.
The Ministry of Social Affairs says it expects the first review by September 30.
Editor: Andrew Whyte