Latvia's hospitals will have to save space for urgent care patients

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Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases, regional and university hospitals will have to save 15% of beds for new patients taken in by Emergency Medical Service (NMPD), Daina Mūrmane-Umbraško, State Secretary for the Ministry of Health, told Latvian Television October 29.

As hospitals continue to fill, patients' admission arrangements have been changed, and chronic patients from Rīga and vicinity are taken to hospitals in other regions. Thus, sometimes there are situations where the smaller hospitals refuse emergency patient accommodation because there are no free beds. Starting Friday hospitals will have to keep 15% of all beds unoccupied.

Hospitals themselves will be able to choose how to achieve the required amount, for example, by discontinuing other scheduled services.  At the same time, hospitals should also form so-called transit departments where a patient could stay until it is confirmed whether he/she has COVID-19. Several hospitals in the regions are already doing this, for example, Liepāja Regional Hospital.

Daina Mūrmane-Umbraško confirmed that there was still the idea of allocating separate hospitals for COVID-19 patients only. 

Currently, several hospitals have expressed their readiness, but both infrastructure, technical security and staffing needs to be assessed. According to the ministry spokeswoman, this could be a matter for the coming weeks.

The capacity of premises and equipment in hospitals is there, but the biggest problem is the capacity in terms of personnel.

Artūrs Šilovs, board member of the Latvian Junior Doctors Association, said:

“We can buy breathing machines, a bed, free up the room, but the staff (…) can't simply be ordered from abroad.”

Next week, the National Health Service (NVD) will publish a list where and when COVID-19 positive patients can receive health services not directly associated with COVID-19. At the moment, there is no such option.

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