The Minister of Health and Labour Jevgeni Ossinovski replied to the interpellation concerning the collective agreement of health care professionals (No. 196), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Viktor Vassiljev, Märt Sults, Marika Tuus-Laul, Dmitri Dmitrijev, Mailis Reps, Anneli Ott, Jaanus Karilaid, Erki Savisaar, Martin Repinski, Olga Ivanova, Tarmo Tamm, Enn Eesmaa, Andrei Novikov, Oudekki Loone, Valeri Korb, Mihhail Stalnuhhin, Kersti Sarapuu, Heimar Lenk, Kadri Simson, Peeter Ernits, Mihhail Korb and Siret Kotka on 4 April.
The interpellators referred to the fact that, as no agreement had been reached with employers in the negotiations on the collective agreement of health care professionals, the Estonian Medical Association, the Professional Association of Healthcare Workers and the Estonian Nurses Association were going to turn to the Public Conciliator for resolution of the labour dispute. The interpellators highlighted the fact that the minimum hourly wage rates offered do not enable to ensure sufficient and motivated medical staff for medical institutions in Estonia. Insufficient financing of healthcare is pointed out as the original cause for the labour dispute. The interpellators are discontent because, in their opinion, the state leaders do not value health and health care professionals.
The members of the Riigikogu wished to know what the minister responsible for the field and the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund had done for the negotiations on the collective agreement to be successful.
Ossinovski explained that, under the law, the Ministry of Social Affairs is not a party to the collective agreement. “The Ministry of Social Affairs is not the employer of health care professionals, and according to the general logic, employees negotiate the issues concerning the organisation of work and the salary with employers,” the minister said. He added that, certainly, representatives of the ministry had participated in all negotiation rounds and had given the necessary input together with the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, in order to ensure effectiveness of the negotiations. Ossinovski assured that he as a minister is interested in peaceful employment relations in the health care sector. He agreed that additional funds are needed for health care more broadly as well as the salary fund of health care professionals. Ossinovski said that a broader general discussion was going to be held at the Public Conciliator on 31 May 2016. Earlier, during April, the Public Conciliator has spoken separately with both employers and trade unions.
Ossinovski explained that while doctors’ minimum salary had been 8 euro per hour in 2014, it is 10 euro per hour this year. It had been 4.50 euro for nurses, and now amounts to 5.50 euro. It had been 2.60 euro for care workers, and amounts to 3.30 euro this year. It may not be such a great rise when calculated in cents of hourly wages, but if we take it as a percentage then, over the past two years, the minimum salaries of health care professionals have grown by more than 10% in both years. According to the data of the National Institute for Health Development, last year, the average monthly salary of health care professionals, together with additional remuneration, amounted to 2250 euro in the case of doctors, 1140 euro for nurses and 674 euro for care workers. If we look at the wealth of purely the Estonian state and society, then the salaries of our health care professionals are at an average level in international comparison. He underlined that it is necessary that, in the coming years, the salaries of health care professionals would rise faster as compared to the average salary to achieve convergence with the salaries of health care professionals in Finland. “In the current budget of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, the salary rise of health care professionals has been calculated at the Estonian average level. Certainly, health care professionals have wanted a bigger pay rise, and we will try to find a common ground in this issue in the coming months,” Ossinovski noted.
The minister acknowledged that, in the coming years, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund would reach a structural deficit in terms of funding. “This means that, during the coming five years, the time will come when the current model of funding of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund will no longer be sustainable. Both this year and in several other years, the budget of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund has been in deficit in current year, that is, expenditures have been covered at the expense of reserves,” Ossinovski explained. He drew attention to the reality that these reserves would be exhausted at some point. “The Government has decided that the sustainability of the health care system will need to be ensured, and the funding system will need to be changed for that. In view of this task, the Ministry of Social Affairs together with the Ministry of Finance, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, the Estonian Hospitals Association and the World Health Organization has analysed the situation and possible solutions over the past six months,” Ossinovski said. He added that this analysis was ready and was waiting to be discussed in the Government in the near future. As a result of that, the Ministry of Social Affairs will propose the necessary legislative amendments to change the health care financing system.
As Minister of Finance Sven Sester was abroad on an official visit, discussions of four interpellations were cancelled, and they will be discussed at a plenary sitting of the next working week. They were the interpellation concerning the economic forecast and stimulation of growth (No. 202), the interpellation concerning the financial situation of Greece and the effectiveness of the third aid package (No. 206), the interpellation concerning the economic growth prospects (No. 212) and the interpellation concerning the State Budget Strategy for 2017-2020 (No. 215).
On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, deliberation of “The Welfare Development Plan 2016–2023” was removed from the agenda for the working week.
During the open microphone, Viktor Vassiljev and Jüri Adams took the floor.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
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