Estonian health workers refuse to sign cooperation agreement with ministry

Streik PHOTO: Urmas Luik

Estonian health workers are not ready to accept the continuation of the previous health policy as a result of which the availability of medical aid has deteriorated and refuse to sign a cooperation agreement prepared by the Social Affairs Ministry.

Latest studies indicate that dissatisfaction with the availability of specialist aid is on the rise, secretary general of the Medical Association Katrin Rehemaa told BNS. Both domestic and foreign experts have asserted that the health funding scheme is unsustainable and needs to be changed fast. By the ratio of health spending to gross domestic product, which is first and foremost an indicator of political power's attitude towards people's health, Estonia has according to the data of the World Health Organization dropped to the bottom of the European scoreboard, narrowly ahead only of Romania, Rehemaa said.

In the view of Estonian health workers' associations, maintaining financing at the present level is not enough for a public health system that meets patients' needs.

"In spite of this Social Affairs Minister Taavi Roivas did not agree to write into the agreement even the modest goal of bringing health funding by year 2020 to the average level of the European Union in 2010 and finding additional financing sources besides the 13 percent health insurance tax paid from the wages of all of us and patients' own contribution," Rehemaa said.

In her words, the social affairs minister refused to take political responsibility for observing the agreement and ensuring the sustainability of the healthcare system.

Rehemaa said previous experience does not inspire certainty that the agreement will in reality ensure involvement of social partners and consideration of their opinion. "The latest warning example is the emergency aid reform that was carried out under a directive of the head of the Health Board without any discussion whatsoever in the work group drafting the agreement, although the number and regional location of ambulance crews has to be approved by parties to the agreement."

Members of the agreement task group worked efficiently, but nonetheless most proposals have been discarded and the Social Affairs Ministry has come up with a document that speaks vaguely about principles, developing and increasing, Rehemaa said. In her words, measurable results have been replaced with words that belong in the vocabulary of water muddying and are unsuited in serious accords.

"We acknowledge the initiative to ponder the future of healthcare together with all organizations operating in the sphere of health, but our aim is to achieve agreements that ensure quality medical aid to patients and bring into the healthcare the extra funds needed for this," Rehemaa said.