Doctor support should rise to attract more to rural areas, says minister ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister for Health and Labour Riina Sikkut (SDE).
Minister for Health and Labour Riina Sikkut (SDE). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Financial support to attract doctors to rural areas of the country should be increased, as much as two- or three-fold, according to Minister for Health and Labour Riina Sikkut (SDE).

''The initial funds of €15,000 originally set aside for this purpose are clearly not sufficient,'' said Ms Sikkut.

''The current figure does not provide motivation to younger people to move to rural areas to work as doctos, and needs to be doubled, or even tripled. To that end, I have made some proposals and preprations here at the ministry to table during budget negotiations in the spring,'' she continued.

Head of the Health Board's healthcare services department Pille Saar echoed the minister's statements, saying that in calculating family doctors' base income, consideration could also be given to providing some extra 'startup' capital to those family doctors who relocate to rural areas.

Doctors' needs vary

Riina Sikkut pointed out that, in addition to simply providing a separate component for those relocating to the countryside, whether this money be used for the purchase of equipment, acquiring premises etc. was one thing, but the question of whether this would be done in concert with local authorities also needed addressing.

''It may also be the case that what works in one district won't do so well in another. Different municpalities have different capacities, just as different doctors have different priorities. Some want to stay in the same district, others might choose to relocate further afield. Applying a one-size-fits-all approach to every district in the same way, or assuming all family doctors are motivated by the same things, is not practical,'' she said, adding that the volume of financial support does not need to be increased uniformly across the board either.

''A doctor working in Saue [a small town just outside Tallinn-ed.] for instance won't have the same priorities as one working in Obinitsa [a village in the southeast of Estonia-ed.]. The sums they require will vary and so we can't just say €300 per week or per month is going to provide sufficient motivation for everybody,'' she went on.

The state provides initial startup support to specialist doctors, including family doctors, who start work outside of the two major urban centres of Tallinn and Tartu at a hospital or as a family doctor, within five years of completing their residency.

The state provides initial startup support to specialist doctors, including family doctors, who start work outside of the two major urban centres of Tallinn and Tartu at a hospital or as a family doctor, within five years of completing their residency.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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