Hospitals in Latvia on the brink of announcing a state of emergency

With the number of Covid-19 patients on a rapid rise Latvia’s largest hospitals are overloaded, which suggests it is entirely possible a state of emergency may be declared in them. One of the reasons is the limited number of available medical personnel possible to send to assist the overloaded intensive care wings, said Latvian Hospital Association’s chairman Jevgēņijs Kalējs in an interview to Latvijas Radio on 4 October.
When asked about the situation in hospitals after the announcement of a state of high alert in Latvia’s health sector on Friday, 1 October, Kalējs said what is most important in this topic is that such a state is announced in situations when hospitals suffer acute shortage of personnel, since most of them have been diverted to provide assistance with Covid-19 patients.
«This means numbers-wise limited personnel are diverted from other patients to assist with Covid-19 patients. This also means other services are limited. Of course every situation is different, but already large hospitals are overloaded, which suggests they may announce a state of emergency,» says Kalējs.
He said this is not just about allocation of sufficient financing towards hiring new personnel, rather the time doctors have to spend in order to acquire education (nurses study for five years and doctors – 12 years).
«Please understand, existing hospital staff can get sick and need to be replaced, but in this situation it is not that simple,» says Kalējs.
However, he added that he expects politicians to uphold their promise, not only in regards to additional financing for the healthcare sector but also in regards to the state paying hospitals in full for the services provided to Covid-19 patients, because so far the state has yet to do that.
As previously reported, due to the consequences from the Covid-19 pandemic the Operational Medical Committee of the Latvian Ministry of Health decided on Friday, 1 October, to put the country’s health sector on high alert, as reported by the ministry.
According to the ministry, high alert means the personnel available in the sector, material or other resources are currently insufficient for hospitals to continue operating normally and providing the necessary services.
«We are preparing for reorganization of regular healthcare services. It is planned to commence Covid-19 treatment at other hospitals,» Minister of Health Daniels Pavļuts wrote on Twitter, adding that the next step is declaring a state of emergency in the healthcare sector.
Latvia’s Emergency Health Service will prioritize emergency calls based on existing algorithms. Hospitals, on the other hand, should focus on providing services to patients in need of emergency hospitalization, patients suffering from acute diseases and Covid-19 patients.
According to the Ministry of Health, ambulances will deliver patients in accordance to the country’s approved hospitalization plan.
It is the duty of hospitals to provide services to all patients who came on their own or were delivered by ambulances.
To ensure that, hospitals may need to reorganize their regular services and outpatient services. The ministry stresses that patients whose scheduled healthcare services were postponed will remain in the queue and once the situation has stabilized, they will be provided with necessary services. If the hospital is unable to provide services to priority patients, they will need to inform National Health Service and the Ministry of Health in writing.
The ministry reports NMPD will carry patients to the nearest healthcare institution.
The committee also decided to open Covid-19 wards at Balvi and Gulbene hospital association, as well as Tukums, Limbaži and Ludza hospitals from Monday onward. At the same time, the National Health Service will inform general practitioners of decisions made by the committee. This includes the possible need for stricter patient sorting for referral to hospitals.