The Minister of Health Riina Sikkut replied to the interpellation concerning the situation in healthcare (No. 104), submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Aleksandr Tšaplõgin and Anastassia Kovalenko-Kõlvart
The interpellators referred to the fact that the waiting times in emergency departments in Tallinn and elsewhere in Estonia were often six hours as a minimum. The Members of the Riigikogu wished to know what the Government was planning to do to normalise the situation.
Sikkut explained that neither she nor the Ministry of Social Affairs thought that the long waiting times in emergency departments were in any way normal, reasonable, or not causing concern.
“The problem was at its most acute in 2022 when even ambulance brigades were waiting in queues at emergency departments. The waiting times have shortened by now. At the same time, measures have been taken to solve that, but the issue of shortening of waiting times will also be dealt with in the future,” Sikkut said.
The Minister explained that the Estonian Health Insurance Fund had started to fund additional triage nurses and on-call rounds of doctors. “This will directly increase the reception capability – patients will be examined and their condition will be assessed more quickly, and there will be additional on-call rounds. This means that this will also shorten the waiting time for critical patients,” Sikkut said. She added that, by the end of this year, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund would review the model for funding emergency departments as a whole in order to motivate hospitals to improve their organisation of work so that it would also be possible to keep the waiting times shorter in the case of a large flow of patients. The Health Board is currently analysing the legal possibilities of how to create an opportunity to redirect patients to other hospitals during overloads of emergency departments.
“The Ministry of Social Affairs will then look at the development objectives of the hospital network and emergency medical care as well as the development plan of primary health care at a strategic level, to see how to improve the optimal treatment path for patients, and coordination,” Sikkut noted. On the other hand, inevitably it is also necessary to raise patients’ awareness of when to turn to emergency department.
In the mid-1990s it was decided to establish a robust system of family physicians in Estonia, to train family physicians and to establish this system as a “portal” for health care for all patients, and these fundamental choices have proved correct, and the system is working. This model has been developed further and modern health centres have also been established all over Estonia, the minister explained.
“However, primary family health centres are overloaded. The greatest concern is the shortage of health care professionals as well as the shortage of family physicians. More than a third of our family physicians are 63 years old or older, and ensuring new generations for the coming years will be a huge effort,” Sikkut said. She added that, if we looked at the feedback from patients, most of the patients were satisfied with the availability of family medical care. “For example, in 2021, nearly 70% of people were able to consult a family physician or a family nurse within three days, and the level of satisfaction was at 80%, that is, 80% of people were satisfied with the availability of family medical care. This satisfaction percentage will no doubt have to be increased. 80% means that one fifth was not satisfied with the availability, and one fifth is a lot,” the minister said.
The Minister of Health Riina Sikkut also replied to interpellations concerning the establishment of Tallinn Hospital (No. 117), the allowance for sick leave days (No. 39) and the integral impact of the tax package (No. 231).
The Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo replied to the interpellation concerning the rise in VAT (No. 103), gender equality (No. 110), the need to restrict the availability of pornography ( (No. 125), gender neutrality (No. 131) and transparency of the legislative process (No. 173), submitted by Members of the Riigikogu.
The Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet replied to the interpellations concerning the drawn-out court proceedings (No. 114), the guaranteeing of the freedom of speech in connection with the plan to expand the prohibition of “hate speech (No. 120), as well as deceitful policy (No. 159) and transparency of the legislative process (No. 185), submitted by Members of the Riigikogu.
Due to the absence of interpellators, it was not possible to discuss the interpellation concerning the integral impact of the tax package (No. 235), submitted by Members of the Riigikogu Alar Laneman, Rain Epler and Helle-Moonika Helme. The Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo was to reply to that interpellation.
According to an agreement between the interpellators and the minister, the reply by the Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet to the interpellation concerning transparency of the legislative process (No. 282), submitted by Member of the Riigikogu Mart Maastik, was deferred.
During the open microphone, Tõnis Lukas took the floor.
The sitting ended at 10.12 p.m.
Video recording will be available to watch later on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.