From January 1, 2023, the Health Board (Terviseamet) and Agency of Medicines (Ravimiamet) will merge under new plans drawn up by the Ministry of Social Affairs to strengthen healthcare management.
Secretary General of the Ministry of Social Affairs Maarjo Mändmaa told ERR the preparatory work will be completed by the summer and the Riigikogu will be able to discuss the plans in the autumn.
The merger is based on a state reform analysis carried out last year and during the first stage it is planned to merge similar authorities.
Mändmaa said the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the fragility of healthcare management in Estonia and a lack of leadership. It is hoped the new authority will fill the gap.
However, it will require more funding than the two agencies are currently given. Before the crisis, requests for additional funding to deal with crises were not taken seriously, Mändmaa said.
"Now the goal is not to cut [the budget], but on the contrary, to do it properly, to ensure that a proper competence center is created, which would also have the confidence to apply for additional funds," he said.
Currently, the Agency of Medicines' annual budget is €4.3 million and the Health Board's is approximately €11 million. The Health Board needed additional government funding to manage the pandemic.
It is not yet known how many redundancies will be made, Mändmaa said.
The future new head of the Health Board will likely be in charge of the merged agencies. A competition is ongoing after several failed rounds.
In the future, the Social Insurance Board and the Labor Inspectorate may also be combined. "We will look at that next year. Not everything will happen at once," Mändmaa said.
The merger will take effect on January 1, 2023 or as soon as possible after that.
Editor: Helen Wright