County hospitals in southeast Estonia are forced to postpone investments due to soaring energy prices and general price advance that could impact their capacity to offer quality medical assistance.
Because hospitals cannot reduce their power consumption either by lowering room temperature or having people work from home, county hospitals have no choice but to pay their hefty power bills using reserves that would otherwise have gone toward new services or medical equipment.
"The situation is no doubt difficult in the South Estonia Hospital as our August power bill is roughly thee times last year's, while our consumption has remained more or less unchanged. Our heating provider has also given us a price hike notice," said Külli Raup, financial director for the Võru hospital.
"We can make do for now, but what next? There is no good answer. We have certain reserves, while this would put much strain on our budget. The first things to be dropped are planned investments," she added.
Apo Oja, head of the Valga Hospital, said that it is crucial to retain that part of investments on which the hospital's treatment capacity depends.
"We will postpone investments and see which expenses we can avoid this year. But this means we will still have to make the investments that hold a key to the future. We cannot just decide not to invest at all – this would impact the quality of our services three or five year from now," Oja said.
Soaring energy prices have also rendered medical supplies and food more expensive.
"The price of electricity cannot be seen in isolation as it has caused products to become much more expensive, and all new tenders end up costing more than we initially planned for," said Margot Bergmann who runs the Põlva Hospital.
She said that the hospital managed to source energy through a public procurement and fix its price last year, which is why it has not seen drastic price advance.
Editor: Marcus Turovski