Psychiatry in Estonia is among the hardest hit medical specialties, and the drop in the number of active practitioners is the steepest in the EU, it was reported by a daily today.
Of the 260 psychiatrists registered in Estonia, 75 have left for work in Finland or other countries.
With antidepressant use doubling in the last 10 years and 26,000 patients taking daily doses, it now takes two months to get an appointment, Eesti Päevaleht reported.
Although the admissions spots for medical residents in psychiatry were increased to 12, they aren't likely to be filled, as a large number of medical graduates - 47 percent in the last five years - are expected to continue to head to employers in Finland and Scandinavia. Another 10 percent of the 140 doctors who enter residency are unlikely to specialize in psychiatry, say university experts.
Besides the proximity of Finland, the other serious problem is that current psychiatrists are aging. The bulk of Estonia's psychiatrists were trained in the 1950s and 1960s. Those 65 and over now account for 12 percent of the psychiatrist workforce.
Andres Lehtmets, head of the Psychiatric Association, said that Estonia spends least on psychiatry in Europe. He said general practitioners and nurses trained in psychiatry could partially help close the gap.