One hundred years since the first Estonian chief physician took office

12. June 2019

On 5 June, 100 years has passed since Dr Karl-Eduard Sibul, the first Estonian hospital manager, took office at the then Tallinn Central Hospital, which today is called East Tallinn Central Hospital. In the yard of 18 Ravi Street, a memorial bench was opened to celebrate the event.

According to Dr Ralf Allikvee, Chairman of the Board of East Tallinn Central Hospital, this is an extremely important milestone in Estonian medical history. Tanel Kiik, the Minister of Social Affairs, also took part in the celebration, and Dr Allikvee and Dr Vahisalu took the floor. The latter gave an overview of the history. The children from the Old Town Educational College and the mixed choir of East Tallinn Central Hospital performed to those present. Many former employees of the hospital turned up.

“On those very difficult days when Estonian statehood was yet to be achieved and the Estonian War of Independence was still going on, managing a hospital was certainly not an easy task,” said Dr Allikvee. “Yet in these years, after the hospital went under the management of the city of Tallinn at the end of 1918 and was named Tallinn Central Hospital, the development of today's main hospital complex began. As chief physician, Dr Sibul played a significant role in this. He also proved to young Estonian doctors that it is possible to reach the top in their chosen field. The importance of such an example cannot be underestimated.”

The journey of becoming a hospital manager was marked by many changes, as was typical of that time. Karl-Eduard Sibul, who started as a veterinarian and treated horses in the Russo-Japanese War, acquired medical education, practiced in Tartu for a long time and then started working as a bacteriologist in Tallinn. His career was interrupted by mobilisation for World War I. However, at the end of the war, Dr Sibul continued as a bacteriologist – as the head of the city’s laboratory and, from 1919, as the director of the hospital and the head of the department of men's internal medicine. Besides the work of a chief physician, he also led the Tallinn Nurses School of the Estonian Red Cross. Additionally, he was known as the private doctor of the Estonian writer Anton Hansen Tammsaare.

An interesting coincidence is that the great-grandchild of the legendary Dr Sibul works at the East Tallinn Central Hospital today. According to Katrin-Heele Anderson, laboratory assistant at the Department of Pre-Analytics, it triggers strong emotions when history is intertwined with the story of a family. “Working in the medical field continues to be honoured in our family,” said the great-grandchild of the first Estonian chief physician.