Coronavirus pandemic a boon for private sector medical company

Confido center interior.
Confido center interior. Source: Confido

An Estonian private sector medical firm has grown rapidly in the past four years since it was founded, more than doubling its staff and also seeing growth driven by the arrival of the pandemic.

The company, Confido, provides vaccination centers and many other services and has plucked from the public sector two major figures in the field.

Confido CEO Risto Laur said: "We have grown strongly this year, and a large part of the growth has come in testing, vaccinations and being a contract partner of the Health Insurance Fund since October. We have also attended specialists in the field of mental health."

"Of course, all healthcare - both public and private - has been at the forefront since the pandemic began, and everyone, based on their mission and capabilities, has dealt with it, including us," Laur added.

Staff more than doubled to 670

Confido has more than doubled its employee payroll, from 300 to 670, since the beginning of 2020, just before the first coronavirus cases arrived in Estonia.

The company has also been operating at a loss, of €2.7 million last year, though turnover rose 141 percent, to €6 million, in 2020.

Confido opened its first medical center in Tallinn in 2017 and has since expanded to four emergency clinics, with a larger medical center planned for Tartu, ERR reports.

After successfully taking part in a Health Insurance Fund tender last year, Confido signed a five-year contract covering 11 specialties, while its emergency clinics have also become coronavirus vaccination points.

Part of same group which owns Südameapteek pharma chain

Prior to last year, Confido partnered with the Health Insurance Fund in operating the family doctor's advice line (1220), while, Lauri says that the place of private medicine is growing as awareness both among patients and providers improves.

The private route plugs gaps in public health provision, Laur said, for instance in the evenings and on weekends, when regular family doctors' centers are closed.

The group Confido belongs to also owns the Südameapteek pharmacy chain, operating nearly 70 outlets, via Pharmaswed AB, a Swedish-registered company whose shareholders are Tarmo Laanetu and reclusive Swedish businessman Oskar Svensson. Risto Lauri is also a board member on Südameapteek's board.

Another issue which needs solving in Estonia is the shortage of quality medical staff, Laur said.

He said: "If you look at the bigger picture, there is no sustainable picture here. Nurses move from one medical company to work, then to a third, fourth or fifth job."

"In terms of doctors in the same way, there are many [Estonian] doctors working in the Scandinavian countries, there is a lot of effort here as a whole to overcome the shortage of doctors and clinical staff together," Laur continued.

Two healthcare big hitters have been tempted over to Confido

At the same time, private medicine shares the same concerns with the state in personnel matters, Laur went on, and the company does not want to poach people directly from the state. 

While greater benefits to employees are present in private medicine, Lauri said, the state should increase the order for doctors and nurses in the curriculum.

Nonetheless, Confido has lately snapped up two high-profile public figures: Marek Seer, the state's vaccinations tsar, went to head up Confido's emergency clinics in September, while long term State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet) director general Kristin Raudsepp went to work in the new Tartu medical center in the same month, after nearly 20 years in the public sector.

Laur added that Confido has no plans to expand outside Estonia at the moment, though it does plan to expand its medical tourism aspects, and compete with the Nordics, he said.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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