The Estonian government continued its discussions on state budget strategy on Thursday afternoon, yet failed again to reach any agreements on the financing of the healthcare sector. Healthcare workers are already preparing for a months-long strike.
While the government is to continue discussing the issue next Tuesday, representative bodies of healthcare workers are not happy that still no decisions have been made to allocate additional funds from the state budget to the healthcare sector, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."
The associations were expecting concrete decisions to be made by this past Tuesday. According to their estimates, the sector is €70 million short on funding for care, leaving unfunded the treatment of more than 200,000 patients.
Doctors and other healthcare workers are already planning a months-long strike not in the name of higher wages but the funding of healthcare.
"This was the most recent deadline we were given as determined by Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski when he promised that a decision would be made by the evening of April 11 at the latest," Katrin Rehemaa, secretary general of the Estonian Medical Association, explained on Thursday evening. "Unfortunately it wasn't made, and it wasn't made by tonight either."
She said that plans have indeed been made to initiate a strike on May 15 should these decisions not be reached, healthcare funding not be improved and patients continue to not have access to the timely care they need. She noted that healthcare workers are expecting the government to take their plans to strike very seriously.
"We want to believe that the government, with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas at the helm, will take something like a strike in healthcare very seriously and will truly put in the effort and reach solutions and decisions with which we could altogether cancel the strike or end it quickly," said Rehemaa. "But it is true that we have prepared well and we are prepared, if necessary, to halt work in healthcare for a seriously long time — and we're not measuring this time in weeks but perhaps in months."
According to the secretary general, the planned strike will not affect emergency care. "Emergency medicine must very carefully consider which patients and in what order must be helped," she noted. "That much is clear that nobody will be allowed to die. When the previous strike occurred in 2012, no major health damage was incurred as a result."
Editor: Aili Vahtla