Last year, Estonian hospitals provided emergency medical care 482,231 times, the National Institute for Health Development (TAI) reports.
The newly published data reveals how an increasing number of people require emergency medical aid in Estonia every year. According to TAI analyst Ingrid Valdmaa, there were 10,000 more patients passing through Estonian A&E departments in 2014 than a year before.
Whereas in 2006 fewer than 227,000 people visited emergency rooms by their own means, the number has grown by 46 percent, to over 331,000 walk-ins in 2014. The number of patients brought in by ambulances has also increased by almost a third in the same period, from 72,000 to 93,000. In 2014, 69 percent of all emergency care patients were walk-ins, 19 percent came by ambulance, 9 percent were referred by other medical establishments, and 3 percent ended up in the A&E by other means (e.g. police).
At the same time, the share of patients who require hospitalization, is decreasing. The percentage of all A&E cases discharged after administering first aid has grown from 73 to 80 percent in eight years.
According to Valdmaa, the reasons for the increased number of emergency care requests lie in Estonia's healthcare system. "At late hours and weekends, people can either turn to emergency departments or ambulance services, or call a helpline. Patients have also become more aware that hospitals will give everyone the help they need," she told ERR News.
It's the city hospitals that have seen the biggest rise in patient numbers. One of the underlying reasons for this could be the fact that city GPs have longer waiting times, Valdmaa said, adding that the increasing number of inhabitants, tourists and the hospitals' greater preparedness to provide assistance to various diseases and injuries is also at play.
An alternative to ambulance and A&E is the medical counselling advice line 1220, operational since 2005, where primary health care professionals will provide immediate counselling and information 24/7.
Editor: M. Oll