Estonian govt allocates EUR 8 mln to finance COVID-19 related extra costs in healthcare

  • 2020-11-19
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – The Estonian government decided on Thursday to allocate eight million euros from its reserve to the Health Insurance Fund to ensure the provision of healthcare services, planning of rearrangements and the conduct of rearrangements under the conditions of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Juri Ratas said it is of utmost importance that medical services are ensured for everyone during the fight against COVID-19.

"In order to fight against the spread of coronavirus, it's important to ensure very good accessibility of appropriate healthcare services for everyone who needs them," the premier said according to spokespeople. He said that the allocated amount is meant to be of aid in maintaining the accessibility of healthcare services.  

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik said that the steep increase in the numbers of infected people has brought with it a need to reorganize the work of nurses, the ambulance service, family doctors and specialist doctors. 

"The additional money enables to pay healthcare workers for extra work hours and finance the reorganization of the work of medical institutions. It also enables to cover additional costs in a  situation where substitute workers have to be found for a medical establishment where healthcare workers have fallen ill," Kiik said.

At family doctor practices, the additional money will enable to hire additional workforce in a  situation where a family doctor or a family nurse has fallen ill or is assigned to isolation, and substitution within the practice is not possible. It will also enable to cover the costs of the reception of people from outside the practice's patient list and persons not assigned to a family doctor's patient list, as well as increase the capability of the practice's telephone helpline in referring people to testing.

Besides, the additional money will enable care homes to increase the provision of nursing services.

In specialist medical care, additional costs have been reckoned with in connection with the need to pay a compensation to employees at infection departments, Level 3 intensive care departments and emergency medicine departments treating COVID-19 patients. Besides, the additional money can be used for the payment of higher wages to ambulance workers if necessary. 

Of the eight million euros allocated to the Health Insurance Fund, 6.9 million euros is meant for covering additional costs in specialist medical care and ambulance services, 0.9 million euros for family doctor services and 0.2 million euros for nursing services.

In addition, the government last week decided to allocate 4.8 million euros for the organization of coronavirus testing. Of this, 2.5 million euros was allocated to cover higher-than-estimated expenditures for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and 2.3 million euros for the acquisition of antigen tests. The purpose of the testing is to detect people infected with the virus as early as possible and isolate outbreaks to prevent the spread of the virus.

The additional money given to the Health Board enables to carry on with the current extensive and regionally available testing -- to test all people with symptoms, enable testing for those returning from travel so they can return to work, and conduct blanket testing if necessary. 

Antigen tests enable to identify potentially infected people faster in various institutions and collectives where blanket testing is necessary, such as at care homes, schools and elsewhere.