Estonian health, labor minister aknowledges hospitals' struggle with heating costs

  • 2022-10-19
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - As hospitals and family doctors in Estonia are struggling with growing energy and heating costs, the sector is slated to get additional funding, Estonian Minister of Health and Labor Peep Peterson said during parliament question time on Wednesday.

"The price list has already been changed and the energy component increased once this year, to my knowledge in either May or June. A second increase is planned for the end of the year, in my estimation for November," the minister said, adding that some 15 million euros will be made available for field. "We're hoping to cover it from overperformance of tax revenues."

Peterson said that even though hospitals and family doctors were not allocated the ample additional funding sought for the sector during the state budget process, an agreement was nonetheless reached on covering extraordinary costs.

"What we agreed upon was extraordinary costs concerning the treatment of Ukrainian people and possible COVID-19 measures for which we can seek funds from a special reserve. These potential costs amount to some 97 million euros," the minister said. "We're sincerely hoping that not all of this sum will be necessary -- firstly, the European Union will negotiate the price and reduce its orders for vaccines, and secondly, there aren't that many Ukrainian people here needing [medical] help."

Negotiations over the salaries of health care workers are still underway, according to Peterson.

"The draft budget of the Health Insurance Fund includes 99 million euros. Whether or not it is enough for arriving at an agreement, I cannot yet say," he noted.

The minister said that the Health Insurance Fund will be able to survive the years 2025 and 2026 using its reserves; however, predicting the future based on reserves and for two years alone is unwise, he added.

"I am completely convinced -- and this is something I have also expressed previously -- that we need to rethink the funding of the Health Insurance Fund and health insurance in general. We're seeing the revenues of the Health Insurance Fund increase 5 percent per year, whereas salaries are growing at a rate of 7 percent, which means that the number of people who are actually contributing to it is constantly declining," Peterson said, adding that sustainable solutions are needed.