Both funding for family healthcare, and the salaries of doctors and nurses, are to see an increase following budget approval from the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa).
A reported €19 million more is earmarked for family medicine compared with 2018, with increases in the number of healthcare facilities and e-consultation options in dermatovenerology, vascular surgery, rehabilitation and pain therapy being added to the existing family doctor e-consultation solutions.
The total budget is set at €1.5 billion.
Child care boost
Other priorities include child health care, which is seeing €2.3 million allocated, including for improved capacity with pediatricians, ENT specialists, opthalmologists and child psychiatrists.
Health minister Riina Sikkut (SDE) explained the rationale behind some of the funding:
"Children should not have to wait for over a week to see a doctor,'' she said.
''The early detection and solving of the health problems of children is an investment for life ... It is clear that in some cases, simply increasing funding will not bring results, as there is a shortage of specialists, such as allergists and psychiatrists. But in that case, it is necessary to contribute to increasing the commissioned education so faster access to doctors would be possible in the future," she continued.
Cancer screenings to be increased
The 2019 Haigekassa budget has also focussed on preventive and health promotion activities aimed at early illnesses detection and prevention.
"While the number of years lived as healthy is increasing in Estonia, we have a way to go until the European level,'' said Haigekassa chair Rain Laane, to BNS.
''This is why we are increasing the budget in prevention by 26% or approximately €3 million compared with the previous year. As a result, the age groups of cervical cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer screenings will be expanded," Mr Laane continued.
The budget will also see the volume of specialised medical care rise to €71 million, and Haigekassa is to finance 96% of assessed demand in 2019. Other areas seeing a boost include oncology, haematology, psychiatry, cardiology and neurology.
Waiting lists for endoprosthesis and cataract operations are also set to be shortened, it is reported.
Doctors' and nurses' salaries are also due for a hike, to a total of €40 million, under the new buget, thanks to collective agreement negotiations involving the Estonian Medical Association, the Estonian Union of Healthcare Professionals and Estonian Nurses' Association and the Estonian Association of Hospitals, in conjunction with Haigekassa.
"A worthy salary is needed for maintaining motivated and professional healthcare workers. I am glad that the departure of doctors and nurses to foreign countries has decelerated. The salary rise of doctors has been 55% over the last five years, with 65.6% for nurses. This is also necessary to ensure that our people are ensured a world-class care team here in Estonia," Ms Sikkut continued.
Emergency services are also due to get a €10 million increase allocated to them, and medicinal products are due €31 million, it is reported.
Editor: Andrew Whyte