Family practitioners to begin accepting emergency patients according to new ministry plans
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, which has already received two investment applications for this project, a network of health centers being established across Estonia should help shorten specialist waiting lists and lessen the burden on hospital emergency rooms as family practitioners’ capacity for treatment is increased.
If family practitioner centers were open during after-work hours and on weekends, that would help a great deal in lessening the burden on many other doctors, emergency rooms and paramedics, said Minister of Health and Labor Jevgeni Ossinovski in mid-February. The minister likewise found that these changes would help shorten waiting lists to see specialists as well, which is just not currently possible for family physicians, reported ETV broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera”.
Chief of the Ministry of Social Affairs’ health network Heli Paluste explained that after-hours appointments with family practitioners and nurses would still be scheduled at health centers. “This way it would be possible to coordinate with multiple family practitioners and nurses,” she explained.
According to Paluste, these additional hours would be scheduled for evenings and on Saturdays, but possibly also on Sundays as well.
Ingerainen: State lacks overview of people’s healthcare needs
According to Diana Ingerainen, head of the Estonian Society of Family Doctors, these health centers will certainly help alleviate the situation, however what concerns the doctors’ society is the fact that the state does not have a good overview of the healthcare needs of those waiting in the queue, so to speak. There is also no universal registration system, so in other words, the state does not see the bigger picture as it tries to patch up the healthcare system one issue at a time.
“As we have currently developed and invested large sums of money into the emergency room system, it remains unclear what activity will remain there and what will be redirected to the new family practitioner centers,” she explained. According to Ingerainen, all of these discussions are only just in their early stages, which is why some questions have remained unanswered, including how much of the population each center should cover, and what diagnostic abilities family practitioners will be given if they are to begin accepting emergency patients.
The Ministry of Social Affairs is accepting project applications until May 9 for the building or renovation of more than 35 health centers across Estonia over the next eight years.
Applications for centers with the ability to offer extended reception hours will be given an advantage in the decision-making process.
The first 15 centers must be operational by 2018.