At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in Estonia, an IT solution was developed in a matter of days giving patients the opportunity to file their own sick leave certificates online. The solution — which was aimed at reducing family doctors' workloads — was utilized by thousands of people, but as of Monday it will no longer work.
As the coronavirus pandemic reached Estonia, family doctors suggested that patients be given the chance to file their own sick leave certificates. A solution was developed in a matter of days allowing patients to do just that via the country's centralized medical records system, which was used by nearly 25,000 people in the span of just a couple of months. Beginning Monday, however, patients will once again have to contact their doctors in order to request a sick leave certificate.
"There are certain obstacles, from legal to technical ones," Health Insurance Fund director Rain Laane said. "This solution was developed in two days, and this solution justified itself. Family doctors' workloads have normalized by now, and for some time people can live with communicating with their family doctors."
According to Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center), the system in question was a temporary solution, whose plusses and minuses must now be weighed.
"We will certainly reach a decision regarding whether this is the type of practice we could repeat in the future during virus seasons, the type of practice we should implement year round, or a practice we should only use during an emergency situation," Kiik said.
Paying compensation for the first three days of sick leave was likewise a temporary solution for which €7 million was allocated from the supplementary budget to the Health Insurance Board.
"The emergency situation ended [Sunday]; now we have a crisis," Laane said. "When it comes to sick leave certificates filed today, the first three days will no longer be compensated."
The Health Insurance Fund is currently in talks with both employers and trade unions regarding whether and under what conditions the first three days of sick leave could be compensated as well.
"Should we see that opportunities exist in the state budget, and that there is support for this practice in the Riigikogu and the government going forward as well, then naturally it would be possible to make these changes too," Kiik said.
While the emergency situation in Estonia ended on Sunday, people who have come in close contact with others with the novel coronavirus must remain quarantined for two weeks, even if they do not exhibit any symptoms themselves.
Thus far, no sick pay has been paid to those in quarantine in Estonia. Should an employee not have the opportunity to work from home, the minister noted that they do have the opportunity to request a sick leave certificate.
"In this case, the doctor can assess whether this is someone with a serious risk of infection, and in whose case sick leave may be justified even without an actual diagnosis or testing," Kiik explained.
Currently, the first three days of sick leave in Estonia are unpaid. Days four through eight are compensated by one's employer, while compensation for the ninth day of sick leave and beyond is paid by the Health Insurance Board.
Editor: Aili Vahtla