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Icy conditions in Estonia pack ER waiting rooms

Arm in a sling at a hospital ER.
Arm in a sling at a hospital ER. Source: ERR

Bad winter weather and slippery road conditions have led to wait times at Estonian emergency rooms of up to six hours. While road conditions on Saturday had improved compared with the day before, the risk of slips nonetheless remains high.

Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) North Prefecture operational manager Urmet Tambre says that the number of crashes that occurred Friday is indicative of both bad weather conditions as well as road users' lack of attentiveness, ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported Saturday evening.

"If we look at yesterday's crashes, they were actually happening all across Estonia," Tambre noted. "The 25-car pileup on Tallinn's Ring Road in Harju County, a five-car pileup in Võru County, five vehicles in Tartu County, two buses – one in Pärnu County, the other in Tartu County – pedestrians in Tallinn. And in winter, the danger is actually everywhere."

Slippery roads saw ERs across the country go into overdrive as well. The emergency department at North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) had to tap in additional doctors starting around midday Friday already, and continued at the same clip on Saturday.

Depending on the severity of their injury or condition, some patients may have to wait up to six hours to be seen.

"[People] are falling, sustaining head injuries, arm fractures, lower limb fractures, and sometimes there may even be all kinds of acute pathologies of the chest," said Anton Borissov, a general practitioner at the PERH Emergency Department, describing cases that have been coming in.

Tartu University Hospital (TÜK) Emergency Department director and senior attending Kuido Nõmm, meanwhile, said that cases peaked on Friday, and Saturday already saw a return to business as usual.

"Last night there was indeed a not very long – say, three to four-hour – period where there were a lot of patients and wait times also increased," Nõmm said, describing Friday at the Tartu hospital. "But that resolved, and right now we're in very good shape at the Emergency Department."

As roads still remain icy, however, police are urging people to take longer vehicular stopping distances into account.

"While typically on highways we can brake within 100 meters of detecting a hazard, right now we need more than 200 meters," Tambre explained. "And it's the same in town – while 30 meters is typically enough, right now it's at least 60 meters. Pedestrians don't take this into account, and it seems as though drivers aren't either."

Winter is still well underway in Estonia, and road conditions aren't expected to improve anytime soon.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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