A new adviser at the Health Board will help English- and Russian-speakers who have recently moved to Estonia with their health-related questions.
Adviser Andrei Petuhhov started working in the Department of Healthcare Services of the Health Board in March. The position is funded by the European Social Fund.
His main responsibility is to provide consultations to newly relocated foreign nationals and also to those who live in Estonia but only speak English or Russian.
All newly relocated foreign nationals can get advice on healthcare in Estonia from Andrei by e-mail at Andrei.Petuhhov@terviseamet.ee or by calling +372 794 3500.
Settle in Estonia asked Andrei about his new role and have given ERR News permission to republish the interview.
Could you please describe the nature of your work and your responsibilities?
I advise people on healthcare services, namely, the system of family physicians. I give information over the phone and by e-mail. I can give consultations in Estonian as well, but my primary job is to provide support to those who speak Russian or English.
About a third of my work involves speaking to people over the phone, and I consult in writing the rest of the time. Currently, I have no face-to-face appointments with people in the office building of the Health Board.
What types of questions do people have when they turn to you?
As a rule, those who have just moved to Estonia have a number of questions about Estonia and what goes on in the country, but my professional competence allows me to answer only the questions about our healthcare services.
People mainly look for family physicians who speak foreign languages in Tallinn and beyond, and I try to connect patients with such professionals and help them register with the family physician.
The Health Board hopes for foreign speakers' understanding of the fact that while medical personnel's proficiency in English is highly welcome and not uncommon these days, it is still not an obligation required by law.
During the COVID-19 crisis, I had plenty of questions concerning referrals about coronavirus testing. Often there are also more complicated questions from individuals and healthcare providers alike, and I turn to the legal adviser or head of the department in such cases.
Where else would you recommend turning to for health-related information?
As far as medical issues are concerned, only qualified medical personnel can answer such questions. If one has a health problem, the first point of contact still should be the family physician even if you are newly relocated.
The information line of family physicians, 1220, provides advice in English every day from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., according to the information available today (June 2, 2020).
How do newly settled foreign nationals find you?
When my position had just been created, my contact information was not very widely spread. People who have arrived to live in Estonia can receive information about counselling on the part of the Health Board from the officials and organisations that foreigners contact here, for example, the Police and Border Guard Board which is where one should turn for identification documents.
In the second half of 2020, I am planning to start participating in seminars and webinars for newly relocated expats and also start face-to-face appointments in the International House of Estonia.
In addition, I will be introducing the Estonian healthcare system in universities, where possible, so that foreign students know where to go for medical aid.
Have there been any strange or funny situations?
There are often awkward moments when a client and I spell e-mail addresses over the phone for each other. My name is rather long, and many find it difficult to catch, let alone the Estonian word "terviseamet" [Health Board] in the e-mail address.
I also sometimes find it challenging to write down an e-mail address I hear on the phone correctly, especially if the person is from a remote country, and the form of their name is not familiar to me.
A number of funny occasions have resulted from the clients speaking English or Russian with a strong accent which is difficult to understand.
Have you also had any feedback from people after they found solutions to their questions?
Yes, there has been positive feedback, which has mainly come in by e-mail. It makes me glad to know that someone has actually benefited from my work.
Editor: Helen Wright