Estonia's Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski, who on Friday met with healthcare workers and was supposed to discuss extra funding for the healthcare system with them, did not divulge his specific plans after all.
"We weren't told anything specific," Katrin Rehemaa, secretary general of the Estonian Medical Association, told BNS. "It's reportedly been agreed in the government that these plans will not be made public at this point. Since these plans and decision-making are connected to the collective agreement and industrial peace as well, discussions revolved around those things instead." She noted that nothing had actually been agreed upon.
According to Rehemaa, healthcare professionals only knew about Ossinovski's proposal to pay health insurance premiums for non-working pensioners and thereby feed more money into the system. "At the same time, we were surprised by the plan to lay more obligatins on the Health Insurance Fund, i.e. to transfer to the Health Insurance Fund some things currently financed directly from the state budget, such as emergency ad, HIV and infertility treatment," she explained. "But since we weren't shown any figures, there is nothing specific as things stand.
"A specific new pledge was that April 10-11 are the dates on which the government must make the political decisions underlying the state budget as regards to healthcare funding," she continued, adding that the minister ostensibly promised to acquaint healthcare workers with these scenarios in advance.
Another issue that prompted arguments at the meeting was the fact that the government wants to oblige healthcare workers to sign the collective agreement before next Wednesday's meeting of the supervisory board of the Health Insurance Fund. Rehemaa said that the healthcare workers told Ossinovski that they would not do so as there was no clarity regarding funding.
If all parties want to make progress peacefully, the supervisory board's decision not to raise the wage component is vital, Rehemaa noted. In her words, there was no reason not to make such a decision.
Collective agreement not to be signed before April
According to the secretary general, maintaining industry peace will depend upon the decision of the March 22 meeting of the Health Insurance Fund's supervisory board and the budget strategy to be adopted on April 10-11. "We made a very clear promise to the minister that if those things materialize, we will definitely sign the collective agreement and ensure industry peace," said Rehemaa, adding, however, that the agreement would certainly not be signed before April 10-11.
Organizations representing healthcare professionals and hospitals in mid-February arrived at an agreement on a pay increase without concluding a collective agreement. The pay agreement would have had to be approved by the Health Insurance Fund in order to be implemented, but the fund's supervisory board did not support it.
The Health Insurance Fund plans to spend €23 million on increasing healthcare workers' wages this year. Ossinovski has previously stated that wages could not be incerased without a collective agreement.
Editor: Aili Vahtla