Pediatrics hotline not always answered by specialists

Family doctors' advice hotline.
Family doctors' advice hotline. Source: ERR

Even though the "Lastearst kuuleb" (pediatrician speaking) paid hotline at 1599 suggests the caller will get ahold of a pediatrics specialist, this might not always be the case as the phone can be picked up my other medics also manning the free 1220 family doctor hotline.

ERR reported last week that both the family doctor hotline and the pediatrics hotline have been acquired by businessman Margus Linnamäe's Confido Healthcare Group and turned out quite lucrative.

A medical professional manning the phones at the family doctor hotline (identified by ERR) said that the news of the hotline's profitability was surprising in light of modest salaries.

What is noteworthy, however, is that according to the employee, the family doctor and pediatrics hotlines are answered by the same people only one of whom is a pediatrician, adding that they are saddened to see people misled in such a way.

"I like working as a specialist for the 1220 hotline, while giving advice as a pediatrician there constitutes an ethical dilemma for me," the person added.

The two hotlines have different pricing. The family doctor hotline, financed by the Health Insurance Fund, can be reached by dialing 1220, which is subject to the standard call rate of service providers, or 634 6630 for free. At the same time, the 1599 pediatrics hotline is paid and charges callers €1 per minute.

ERR asked Confido whether it was true the phones were manned by the same people and that there was just one pediatrician among the staff.

Eve Kaljusaar, head of marketing and communication for Confido, said the pediatrics hotline receives so few calls, they also have the pediatrician on staff answering the 1220 hotline.

"Experienced family doctors with years of experience treating children stand ready to answer calls coming to the pediatrics hotline," she added.

The webpage of the "Lastearst kuuleb" hotline also clearly states that advice is not always provided by a certified pediatrician.

"The hotlines are manned by experienced healthcare workers from diverse fields – doctors and nurses, many of whom are also employed at family medicine centers, emergency rooms and various Estonian hospitals," the website reads.

Until last summer, the family doctor hotline was owned by the Tallinn Children's Hospital Support Foundation which first launched it in 1995.

Inna Kramer, who heads the foundation, said that the hotline was sold to OÜ Perearsti Nõuandeliin, which is in turn owned by Confido, when existing operators retired and new ones were not found.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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