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Only major Estonian hospitals prepared for prolonged power outages

Christmas lights at a hospital (Photograph is illustrative)
Christmas lights at a hospital (Photograph is illustrative) Source: Jürgen Randma/ Government Office

Not all hospitals in Estonia are currently equipped to deal with prolonged power cuts. In the event of a power outage, Estonia's larger hospitals have the capacity to remain operational for several days. However, some of the country's smaller hospitals would only be able to continue functioning for a period of less than 24 hours.

In the event of a power cut, regional and central hospitals in Estonia are required to be self-sufficient for 72 hours, while general hospitals must be able to continue operating for 16 hours.

However, not all hospitals are currently able to reach full capacity, should they be required to do so.

"According to the overview we have been given, with the average capacity of their generators throughout the day, regional hospitals are able to cope for up to 72 hours," said Liina Henn, chief specialist at the Estonian Health Board.

While hospitals contain many important units that depend on electricity, not all of them need to remain switched on during power outages.

"Ideally, the whole hospital could (remain operational)," explained Henn. "A good example is East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITKH), where the former head ordered that all units be backed up by generators. However, by law, we must focus first and foremost on providing emergency care. This means that any patient who is in a life-threatening condition should be able to get urgent assistance," said Henn.

The North Estonia Medical Center (PERH), has enough generator capacity to guarantee electricity supplies for the entire building for 72 hours, according to the hospital's electrical engineer Valmar Ott.

"If you start building all these different power systems and then have to decide which ones will be stay connected to the mains supply, and which will be powered by a generator, it will be significantly more expensive at these capacities than simply buying a slightly more powerful generator and transferring the entire hospital to generator power," Ott explained.

The University of Tartu Hospital's vital systems can initially run on generators for 36 hours. Johann Sulling, the hospital's head of business development and administration said, that there are currently no pans to supply the entire hospital with electricity during power cuts.

"Up to now, hospitals in Estonia have been planned, and the clinic buildings constructed, on the principle that their primary purpose is to provide(medical) treatment. (The hospital) should not have to generate and supply its own electricity for long periods of time. This has also been the basic principle behind the design of the back-up systems," Sulling said.

While larger hospitals have been increasing their electricity supply capacity in recent years, for smaller hospitals, the situation is different.

"It can't be said that they have or haven't caught up (with the larger hospitals)," said Liina Henn. "Because, in fact, general hospitals only joined the list of critical service providers a few years ago. Therefore, they had no direct obligation to think about providing (their own) electricity," Henn explained.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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