The state is pushing crisis preparedness on to hospitals, does not take crises seriously enough, and has ignored the National Audit Office's remarks, the State Audit Office's auditor general said on Saturday.
Writing in a blog post, the Auditor General Janar Holm said that by pushing requirements concerning essential crisis readiness of emergency services and hospitals back three years, the Ministry of Social Affairs could put hospital's vital services at risk of disruption.
"It took only two and a half months for the lessons of the October storm to lose their excitingness and urgency. Yesterday brought news that the Ministry of Social Affairs is preparing to adjourn by a whole three years the fulfillment of the requirements concerning essential crisis readiness of emergency services and hospitals," Holm wrote.
The chief auditor observed that 18 months ago the Ministry of Social Affairs imposed the requirements for ensuring the functioning of hospitals and the ambulance service in crisis situations.
"Substantive requirements of the regulation stepped into force on January 1, 2020. But what we do not have is readiness," he said.
The National Audit Office previously said in June 2018 that operational continuity is not ensured. No actions followed, however, the head of the National Audit Office said.
He said that the action that followed the next reminder, in October last year, was an adjournment of the fulfilment of the requirements on the grounds that the government has not earmarked necessary funds in the national budget strategy.
"Crisis readiness requirements for the ambulance service and hospitals are not just a formal thing. The most important of these requirements means the ability and readiness to keep central and county hospitals operational for 72 hours and local and general hospitals for at least 16 hours after the disruption of a vital service," Holm said. "That means that no matter whether there is a power outage, disruption in data communication, disruption in water supply, or a fire has broken out, vital service must continue. Hospitals are obliged to give medical attention, the ambulance service must help."
"Estonia is having relatively good times now. Hence it is quite justified to be demanding towards the Ministry of Social Affairs and the government," Holm said, suggesting that the country commit to fulfil the requirements at least in part and obtain a certain portion of necessary fuel supplies and generators.
"It looks like an unfair caricature of the actual capability of the Estonian state that a working engine at the hospital of Võru, which allegedly comes from a tank, continues to be the best and most secure option for ensuring the availability of electricity," he said.
Editor: Helen Wright