TALLINN - Estonian Minister of Health and Labor Peep Peterson, Minister of the Interior Lauri Laanemets and Latvian Minister of Health Daniels Pavluts have signed a cooperation agreement for improving the availability of ambulance services in border areas to bring the necessary care to people more rapidly and to improve preparedness to respond to possible major accidents.
"Every individual is valuable and every second lost may determine a person's future life. Good cooperation between Estonian and Latvian ambulance crews will provide certainty for people residing in border areas that no one will be left without assistance in the event of an unexpected medical incident or accident, regardless whether the nearest ambulance is on Estonia's or Latvia's side at the time. We will thus be better prepared for day-to-day uncertainties as well as possible major accidents," Peterson said.
"For example, if an accident with many victims occurs in a border area, the Emergency Response Center can rapidly include the paramedical resources of Latvia and the victims can also be hospitalized in Latvia. We're equally prepared to respond to our neighbors' request for assistance and rush to their aid at the first opportunity. We're small countries and good cooperation with our neighbors is crucial," he went on.
The minister of the interior, Lauri Laanemets said that one of the core tasks of the state is to make its residents feel safe and cared for in every part of Estonia.
"Thanks to the Latvian-Estonian paramedical cooperation agreement, we can further improve the sense of safety among communities in border areas and improve our capability to help people regardless of their place of residence or stay. Cooperation between the two states is extremely important in such matters because it can save lives," Laanemets said.
Areas adjacent to the border and located within a 40-kilometer radius thereof are deemed border areas. Based on the cooperation agreement, Estonia is ready to receive Latvian ambulance teams in the South Estonian Hospital in Voru, Valga Hospital and Parnu Hospital whereas in Latvia, the hospitals in Aluksne and Valmiera can receive Estonian crews. The agreement concerns a total of 28 ambulance crews, 14 each from Estonia and Latvia.
Previously, ambulance teams in the twin border towns of Valga and Valka could only provide emergency medical care on the territories of their own countries. In 2010, a paramedical cooperation agreement entered into force between Estonia and Latvia enabling to turn to Latvian paramedics for help if the brigade on the Estonian side is responding to a call and a new urgent request for assistance is placed.
In Estonia, ambulance services are free of charge for everyone regardless of whether the paramedics are coming from Estonia or Latvia.
In order to improve access to medical care in border areas, a cooperation agreement was signed in March 2022 between the Latvian National Health Service and Valga Hospital. Based on said contract, residents of Latvian border areas can turn to Valga Hospital for scheduled treatment based on a referral from their family doctor.