Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) broadly agreed with President Kersti Kaljulaid's reasons for returning the amendments of the Rescue and Weapons Act to the Riigikogu. Members of the opposition were also against the law but interior minister Mart Helme has defended it.
Kaljulaid said on Wednesday the issue of obtaining data from the health information system, TEHIK (Health and Welfare Information Systems Centre), is unconstitutional and sent it back to the Riigikogu to be reconsidered.
It would allow to give the database for processing emergency calls in crisis situations the right to receive data from the health information system on whether, where and when medical care or health care services have been provided to a person in that crisis situation.
Aeg agreed the law may is too open. "It can be specified and I believe that if the President sends it back to the Riigikogu, the Riigikogu will have the opportunity to reconsider it and clarify this definition," Aeg told ERR.
"My view is that it would be wise to look at it again and make it more specific in order to close this broad line of interpretation," he added.
The law, among other things, set out the right to open a crisis helpline at 1247 for informing and advising residents during a crisis.
The law was intended to give the database for processing emergency calls in crisis situations the right to receive data from the health information system on whether, where and when medical care or health care services have been provided to a person in that crisis situation.
Minister says president's rejection of changes to Rescue Act regrettable
Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) said it as regrettable that the amendments to the Rescue Act was not promulgated by the president on Wednesday.
"The amendments to the Rescue Act, including the need for a crisis information service, did not emerge during the current emergency situation. We presented the legislative draft endorsed by the government to the Riigikogu back in December 2019, and it had been previously coordinated also with the Data Protection Inspectorate," Helme said.
Helme said the use of data is necessary for the provision of the crisis information service, provided for by the new legislation, and is consistent with the requirements of personal data protection and does not violate anyone's right to the protection of health data.
"The provider of the crisis information service does not need and will never need access to a person's health information. To share information, it is only necessary to see whether, where and when aid has been provided to a victim in a crisis situation. We have seen during several previous crises that in a crisis situation people's need to get information and instructions from a single reliable source grows," Helme said.
"Have you thought about it what to do in a situation where large numbers of people have suffered as a result of a large-scale accident and we suddenly need information about whether someone close to us has been evacuated from the crisis area or what hospital they have been taken to? Indeed, we must always take into consideration the possibility that during a crisis it may not be possible to contact a family member by calling them," the minister said.
Helme said that under the arrangement introduced with the legislation, nobody would get information about a person's health condition from the emergency helpline, as that task would be left to the doctors, and to the police in the sadder cases.
According to the minister, the crisis information service would be launched only at the orders of the institution responsible for the resolving of an event during a crisis situation.
Reform Party chairman: Access to health data infringes on right to privacy
Commenting on the decision of the president's decision, opposition Reform Party leader and chair of the party's parliamentary group Kaja Kallas said that granting widespread access to health data is not necessary in the coronavirus crisis.
"Already in the Riigikogu, we drew the attention of coalition parties to the fact that it is not reasonable to give crisis hotline employees the right to make inquiries about people's health data in this form. Our proposal was to remove this provision from the law, but of course we were not listened to and coalition MPs voted down our amendment proposal," Kallas was quoted by spokespeople as saying.
She added that widespread access to health data in the coronavirus crisis was not necessary and would violate people's right to privacy, and the parliament will have to reconsider the law after Wednesday's decision by the president.
"There has been too much chaos in the government in recent weeks. Conflicting messages about face masks, testing, easing restrictions, exiting the crisis have become the rule. Reasonable suggestions are not listened to, one's own wisdom is blindly believed," Kallas said.
Editor: Helen Wright