Estonia’s doctors: More strikes coming if health care funding not increased by February 2017
Estonia’s union of medical specialists, Eesti Arstide Liit (EAL), announced on Saturday that the warning strike of the country’s doctors of Sept. 20 had not produced any results. The new government had until Feb. 15 next year to adopt the union’s demands, otherwise a new and bigger strike would follow.
The doctors demand of the government and the Riigikogu that they guarantee quality and timely care for patients, and that to this end they equip the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) and the hospitals with enough money to cover the arising costs.
Further demands include making specialists’ care available to children within reasonable distance of their place of residence. The accessibility of health care is an issue in a country that has recently suffered from the depopulation of its more remote rural areas, and with the preference of the previous Reform Party government to focus on closing down local infrastructure in favor of more cost-effective local centers.
Another demand is that the government actually use the money allocated to health care to ensure coverage for every Estonian citizen. EAL demands that the financial means of the social insurance funds, among them Haigekassa’s undistributed profits, be used to bring back the level of financial coverage at least to that of 2013.
To reduce costs, work disability pensions should be removed from the competency and budget of Haigekassa, and a sustainable model created for the future finance of the Estonian health care system. The goal of such a model had to be to raise the level of coverage to the European Union average. At the moment, Estonia is lagging behind.
Doctors: Resources used up, hoping to increase effectiveness nothing but self-delusion
The decision what the necessary finances of the health care system should be should remain with medical specialists, not with people only interested in economic and financial policy, EAL stated in its Saturday announcement.
For a healthier population and a richer country in the future, naturally healthy lifestyles were important, and so was prevention, the doctors wrote. “But sick people need timely medical help now. To postpone treatment for the sake of temporarily saving money, and causing more suffering and often irreversible damage to patients is a disgrace to the state that is about to take over the presidency of the European Union,” EAL’s announcement stated.
Estonia had achieved the highest effectiveness of healthcare in Europe, but at a cost, the doctors added. The available resources had dried up, and to hope that e-services, so-called personal medicine, consolidation of services into regional centers, private insurance, or the option for wealthier patients to avoid queues by paying more, all of this was nothing but self-delusion. More resources were needed to improve the situation.
The doctors complained in their statement of Saturday that improving the situation in health care was not part of the new coalition’s priorities, and that they didn’t see how after years of politicians not taking the issue seriously, things were set to improve now.
The Sept. 20 warning strike held earlier this year had not produced any results, EAL stated. For this reason, the union was preparing itself for longer and more serious protests.
The new government had until Feb. 15 next year to take steps to alleviate the situation, the doctors wrote. If this didn’t happen, more strikes would follow.