Social ministry secretary general to be removed from office

Marika Priske.
Marika Priske. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Affairs Marika Priske to pay the price for problems with vaccination progress.

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik and Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo will make a proposal to the government to remove from office Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Affair Marike Priske, the ministry communicated.

Delfi (Link in Estonian) reports that Deputy Secretary General Maris Jesse, who was set to become Priske's adviser after the end of her term, also stands to lose her job.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform Party) criticized the vaccination effort during last Thursday's government press conference, adding that changes are in order at the top.

Kallas said that there are too many problems with vaccination and that progress is too slow. "We are not satisfied with the situation," she said. "I have discussed the situation with Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik on several occasions. I find that leading social ministry officials have been unable to offer solutions and ramp up the pace [of vaccination] for some time," the PM added.

Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center Party) said in turn that he wants to concentrate on finding solutions instead of culprits but added that certain staff changes are in the pipeline for August and September. Whether we're talking about replacing the deputy secretary general in charge of healthcare (Maris Jesse -ed.) or the fact vaccination effort coordinator (Marek Seer's – ed.) contract is about to expire. I think that getting rid of everyone is not sensible. We will see what additional decisions seem sensible. We will wait for the reports of the Health Board cold storage incident, problems and answers there. We will need to look at these things together," Kiik said.

"Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Sunday that other top politicians of the Reform Party have been increasingly critical of their coalition partner Kiik and his subordinates recently.

Reform Party MP Kristen Michal said that Kiik should start with problems in his administrative area.

"The underlying problem is with how the social ministry and the entire healthcare domain are managed. Shuffling individual members of this social bureaucracy is no longer effective. A part of the band needs replacing, with the PM saying as much," Michal commented.

Marika Priske became secretary general of the ministry in August 2014.

New secretary general expected to be more capable

Tanel Kiik and Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo said that the incoming secretary general should boost the ministry's capacity for handling crises.

"The crisis that has now lasted for a year and half has not been easy, which is why we need to find ways to adjust as a society, learn to live with the virus," Riisalo said. "But change accompanies new people and their fresh ideas," she added.

Tanel Kiik said that decisions have been made on various levels in the crisis and, regarding some, whether they have been the correct ones will be determined in the future. Criticism has been both deserved and ill-deserved, he said.

The incoming secretary general is expected to maintain a cohesive working environment and value the ministry's team, as well as improving management in strategic crisis terms. "We failed to anticipate the second wave as such, while we also did not foresee the third one arriving when it did," Kiik said.

Kiik added that while he and Riisalo have discussed candidates, it is too early to reveal any names, adding that the next secretary general will be appointed directly and no public contest will be held to avoid confusion.

Marika Priske said that she first learned of the plan to remove her from office from State Secretary Taimar Peterkop on Friday.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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