The government on Thursday decided to begin providing financial support for care homes where the employee vaccination coverage exceeds 90 percent. The support scheme sees €120 paid for each vaccinated worker.
"The more care home workers are vaccinated, the safer it is for the residents of the care homes, who are all part of a risk group. It is critical to limit their infections because they may come with serious consequences," said Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform).
The applications are open from December 1 to January 15 and €120 will be paid for each vaccinated employee of a care home.
A total of €824,000 has been allocated for the care home support scheme. "This money will come from the resources that were left over in the supplemental budget," Kallas noted.
Care homes have option of directing the support to salaries
Minister of Social Security Signe Riisalo (Reform) introduced a plan to the government on Thursday, which involved paying a bonus to care homes where the majority of employees are planning to get vaccinated with a booster dose. The support would max out at €150 per employee.
At the beginning of the year, when vaccinations were available for care home employees, the number of outbreaks started decreasing. Riisalo said it is key that the employees and clients of care homes get their third vaccine doses as soon as possible.
She said: "For that, we have worked out a plan in cooperation with officials in order to offer financial support to general and special care facilities, which takes into account the success of the vaccination."
In distributing the money, it is important to consider the number of employees who have been vaccinated, as these people also generally move outside facilities, unlike care home residents.
"The subsidy is currently estimated to be €150 per employee," the minister said.
Riisalo added the subsidy would be paid to a juridical person, not the employee who is willing to get vaccinated. "We definitely don't want to pay people to get them vaccinated," she said. "But we value the contribution and the effort."
She noted that the facilities have the possibility to direct the support to salaries. "But the facility will receive the subsidy retroactively," she said. "So it's not possible to go to somebody with an envelope of money. The shot must be done and then it's possible to pay bonus."
The mechanism of distributing the money will be simple. Riisalo is waiting for an agreement with the government on what percentage of third doses the facilities will need.
Currently, vaccinating with one or two doses has been finished by 82 percent of care homes employees. At the same time, there are care homes where only half of the employees are vaccinated.
Riisalo stressed that the subsidy will be paid based on the third booster shot. "As we can see from the statistics that last week we had 16 outbreaks in general health care institutions, this week the figure is 19. it is important for the third dose to reach people."
Kiik on wider bonus idea: Vaccines are free
Deputy-chancellor at the Ministry of Social Affairs Heidi Alasepp said that more important than the third dose is the overall vaccination percent. Alasepp added that different bonus ideas have been proposed to politicians.
"With our colleagues, we have put these kinds of proposals on the minister's table. I hope they will be approved," Alasepp said, without specifying the content of these proposals.
Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) said that certain sectors should be supported, whether these are health care facilities or education facilities. Kiik said, however, that there has been no talk regarding paying bonuses for vaccinating.
In Lithuania, such a proposal was made. To pay €100 to the elderly aged 75+ who are willing to be vaccinated. The condition is that the person hasn't been vaccinated before September 1.
Estonian government doesn't support such a solution, Kiik said. "At the government level, we've had the approach that as we have offered the possibility to get vaccinated for free, close to home, then we haven't started to add any bonuses."
Editor: Roberta Vaino, Kristjan Kallaste