Healthcare workers look to PM for clear answers on public health financing

Estonian doctors. Photo is illustrative. (Postimees/Scanpix)
12/23/2016 2:40 PM
Source: BNS
Category: Business

Estonian healthcare workers are looking to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) for concrete ideas and proposals for solving problems in public health financing as well as the budget of the Health Insurance Fund.

Because of healthcare underfinancing, the accessibility of medical aid has steadily deteriorated and wait times for treatment have increased over the last few years. The situation is particularly difficult in specialized medical care, where numerous patients' planned hospitalizations have been postponed until next year and the workload of emergency departments has substantially increased, health professionals said in a letter to the prime minister.

While the healthcare workers acknowledge the current government's decision to cancel a planned reduction of the social tax rate, they are seeking as detailed information as possible regarding further steps, including what changes will be made in healthcare financing, how much additional money will they bring into the Health Insurance Fund's budget, when decisions will be made and when they will enter into force.

"Previous governments have repeatedly promised to healthcare workers' and employers' associations to improve public health funding and the accessibility of medical care, but unfortunately nothing has been done toward [achieving] this goal," the letter stated.

The workers noted that the healthcare collective agreement and obligation to refrain from striking expire at the end of this year. "General assemblies of health professionals' organizations have authorized their representatives to sign a new collective agreement only if the government has made the necessary decisions by Feb. 15 to create a sustainable model of healthcare financing and guarantee patients the care they need," the letter noted. "Employers' associations are likewise not prepared to sign the agreement without this precondition."

Healthcare employees' pay hikes must not come at the expense of the availability or quality of medical care, and thus they are waiting for Ratas' confirmation that with an increase in funding, the volume of healthcare contracts will cover the actual need for health services, the amount of inpatient specialized medical treatment funded by the Health Insurance Fund will return to at least 2013 levels, the share of other expenses in reference prices of healthcare services will not be reduced and patients' co-funding will not be unjustifiably increased.

The letter was signed by Lembi Aug, president of the Estonian Medical Association, Anneli Kannus, president of the Estonian Nurses' Association, Iivi Luik, president of the Estonian Union of Healthcare Professionals and Urmas Sule, chairman of the Estonian Hospitals Association.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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