No more ambulance queues at Tallinn emergency rooms

PERH ambulance.
PERH ambulance. Source: PERH

Lines of ambulances waiting to take patients to the emergency rooms of hospitals have disappeared as hospitals in the capital have hired more staff.

It was only recently ambulances had to wait hours to hand over patients at the ERs of Tallinn hospitals. After several months, the crisis culminated in mid-January when a part of patients were moved to Paide.

The Health Board summoned heads of hospitals four times to try and find a solution, while things started moving in early February, after a meeting took place at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

"It seems that hospitals have started taking the situation seriously, drawn conclusions and revisited their work organization," Kalev Pahla, adviser at the Health Board, told ERR.

While there used to be several days every week when hospitals could not admit any more ER patients, the Health Board only had to address a single so-called pile-up in February, which it resolved quickly.

"Based on daily reports I receive from ambulances, I get the feeling things have improved. An hour or 90 minutes is the most ambulances have to wait today, down from four, five or six hours at Tallinn emergency rooms," said Taavet Reimers, head of the operations department of Tallinn Ambulance Service.

He suggested that the situation improved after the North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) hired additional staff and better organized movement of patients between the ER and other wards. Reimers referred to these decisions as quick fixes.

"It will take longer to solve the [underlying] problem as we all know we're short of medical staff and ER beds. The big picture is in need of addressing," he said.

Mondays have been the busiest for ERs so far, while the number of ER patients has dropped by 10 percent in the past month. Head of the emergency room at PERH Vassili Novak said it is difficult to say whether it's because of the moon phase or people reading about ambulance queues from the media. The hospital has also taken measures.

"We have added the position of ER coordinator to keep an eye on and streamline patient registration, which we hope will shorten waiting times. We have triage shifts, and will have specialist shifts, which we hope will allow patients to be moved from the ER to other departments faster," Novak said.

The ER has been given an additional nurse during the busiest hours. Other Tallinn hospitals also said ambulance queues were few and far between in February.


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Editor: Marko Tooming

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