In February, the North Estonian Medical Center (PERH) will become a stakeholder in the operation of the Rapla County Hospital and the Haapsalu-based Lääne County Hospital.
It's not a prelude to closure of the county hospitals, officials ensure, but part of a general re-networking. In a few years' time Estonia will be split in half by an imaginary line: to the south of it all medical care will be provided by the Tartu University Hospital, to the north mostly by PERH.
"The key objective is that if PERH and Tartu University Hospital were hitherto only responsible for themselves, in the future they will also be responsible for providing medical care in regional centers. We are waiting for instructions from the state, who sets the rules, on the extent and degree of the services we must provide on a local level," Tõnis Allik, PERH's chairman of the board, told ERR's news program "Aktuaalne Kaamera."
Without regular visits by doctors from Tallinn and Tartu, the local county hospitals will not survive. Tens of doctors from PERH have already been doing extra hours in Lääne and Rapla hospitals. However, as it stands now, if a doctor has to give up these extra hours, the local hospital would bestruggling. With joint administrative control, the situation should improve.
"When we discuss the matter with junior doctors who we take on, no one argues against this need [to keep the county hospitals open]. If these people are guaranteed work in a top level hospital, they are willing to work outside of it part time," Allik said.
He adds that such networking of hospitals means that county hospitals are capable of providing the optimum locally.
Both Rapla and Lääne county hospitals will also get a financial boost of 1.25 million euros. The money will be used to reconstruct an important part of the hospitals' infrastructure.
Editor: M. Oll