Association: Pandemic highlighted strengths and weaknesses of healthcare

A COVID-19 department at the North Estonia Medical Center.
A COVID-19 department at the North Estonia Medical Center. Source: North Estonia Medical Center

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the Estonian medical system, the Estonian Medical Association said in a statement.

The association noted that lessons learned from the crisis need to be used to improve the system to benefit patients and boost preparedness for the future.

Doctors said that healthcare workers' workload has gone beyond exhaustion during the crisis, adding that Estonia needs to find ways and motivators for boosting the rate of vaccination.

The association remarked that shortage of both doctors and nurses remains a problem. "A third of doctors are over 60 years of age. There are 50 family medicine practice lists with around 60,000 patients that do not have a designated family doctor. The intensity of hospital work is unlimited even without the crisis as there is no fixed number of patients per doctor. Considering overtime, a single doctor does the work of 1.5 currently. It is necessary to lay down workload norms to protect health workers from burning out and patients from errors in treatment caused by exhaustion. If doctors and nurses would not have to work overtime under normal circumstances, it would be easier to temporarily put in more hours during a crisis," the association explained.

The medical associated added that there is no quick way to boost the number of health workers because it takes a decade to train a specialist doctor and the number of medical students is already insufficient to cover the workload of the next 10-15 years.

"Some tasks should be handed to assistants with non-medical training, while smart e-solutions could also streamline work. If our work organization and salary level took greater strides in moving closer to the Nordic level, medical talents could be convinced to return home," the association proposed.

"Cooperation between hospitals, regions and neighboring countries has helped cope with the pandemic. This should remain the good practice in medicine, while competent and constant public administration and development based on the big picture is also sorely needed. Estonian doctors finds that our patients deserve the best-organized and funded medical care."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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