Private sector not expected to provide hospitals with major assistance

Kuressaare hospital patients transported to the mainland.
Kuressaare hospital patients transported to the mainland. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients has brought attention to staff shortages in hospitals, who are now looking for help from the private sector, which is already fully occupied with handling the crisis.

On Thursday, the Estonian Hospitals Association and the Estonian Private Health Institutions Association got together to discuss how the private sector can assist hospitals, which have fallen under a heavy workload. Hospitals Association board chair Urmas Sule said the private sector is already contributing by organizing testing and vaccinations.

"We cannot expect a major breakthrough, for the private sector to leave their work and come work in hospitals. Firstly, most of them are not qualified and secondly, they have their routine activities and responsibilities, which they have to do. In addition to the Covid responsibilities," Sule said.

The two associations still agreed that the private health care institutions will put out a call for volunteers. Association chairman Tõnis Allik hoped to find a few dozen helping hands.

"We cannot force anyone to work for another employer just legally. There has to be an emergency situation, which I hope does not happen. If things are organized from the government side in a way that creates a different situation, then there is the respective legal space," Allik said.

Although he did not have an exact number, Allik said a few hundred people could be involved. This would mean a drop in the capacity of testing and vaccinations, however, to go with suspending private sector scheduled treatments.

"Our service is mainly the outpatient side of scheduled treatments. In the current situation, where hospitals have significantly reduced it and will do it even more, private sector healthcare institutions see an opportunity to provide even more of such treatments to help maintain the sector's capacity. This would maintain an option to still get treatment for those that need it," Allik said.

The private sector association chair noted that the situation reaching such a significant stage is unlikely. If a hospital were to end up short on staff, mobility within the hospital network itself should be taken up as the first option.

"I imagine it starting from reorganizations in hospitals or between hospitals. Regions, where the situation is milder, can help where helping hands are needed. Hospitals have the most qualified staff," Allik said.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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