Kallas: I deem it necessary to create a medical staff reserve

Healthcare workers treating a COVID-19 patient in the North Estonia Medical Center.
Healthcare workers treating a COVID-19 patient in the North Estonia Medical Center. Source: Põhja-Eesti regionaalhaigla

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said when making a political statement in the Riigikogu concerning plans for alleviating crisis restrictions that Estonia could use a medical workers reserve. Opposition MPs criticized the government for not sharing the plan beforehand and said it makes any kind of debate impossible.

Kallas said that the medical staff reserve would function similarly to the Defense Forces reserve.

"Because this crisis is first and foremost a healthcare crisis, continuity of hospital services and medical staff shortages have been the greatest bottlenecks. That is why I would emphasize the need for a medical staff reserve," Kallas said.

"It would operate similarly to the Defense Forces reserve where reservists with special training are called upon when needed. A healthcare crisis would give medical reservists crisis tasks and make it possible to deploy them more quickly. Whether we are talking about medical students, retired doctors and nurses, Defense Forces paramedics or volunteers. Preparation work for the reserve needs to happen while not in an acute phase of a crisis," the PM added.

Mart Helme (EKRE) asked about the details of the reserve. "Where will this reserve be kept? In Finland? Or how will it be put together? Do you plan to have a register? Who will create it, what is the deadline and how much will it cost? All these details – do you have clarity in those terms?"

Kallas said that the plan is for the long term and requires further analysis. "What we have learned from the crisis is that medical students and paramedics have helped out. We know who they are and can put together databases, while we should also give people the chance to train themselves. However, that is a longer-term plan that requires further discussion. It is merely an idea today and I'm not prepared to answer detailed questions at this time," Kallas replied.

Kallas appeared before the Riigikogu to present the government's so-called threat assessment traffic light system that covers guidelines for crisis behavior and that the PM has also referred to as the white book, officially called the "Plan for coordinating public life in the conditions of the coronavirus."

Opposition MPs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and Martin Helme (EKRE) said that they have not seen the plan, meaning that it cannot be discussed on the floor. The public document landed in the inboxes of MPs a few minutes later.

Social Democrat Kalvi Kõva said that because the document only reached MPs when the discussion began, no one has had time to get acquainted and a debate is therefore impossible.

Reinsalu criticized the document for lacking a plan for exiting the crisis.

The plan also describes short-term activities aimed at combating the spread of the virus and alleviating socioeconomic effects that will be launched this year and funded mostly from the 2021 supplementary state budget, as well as long-term activities the execution and coming to fruition of which could take years.

Principles and threat levels described in the plan serve as the basis for a roadmap for lifting restrictions the government will lay down in cooperation with other state agencies next week. The latter prescribes different limitations and alleviation for different threat levels being considered in commerce, service industry, hobby activities, education and public facilities based on the viral situation and the nature of activities.

The government will approve the plan for alleviating coronavirus effects after a round of public consultations on April 22. Its implementation will be coordinated by the Government Office.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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