Minister Kiik: Improving accessibility to family physician care is a national priority

02.06.2022 | 11:57

Today, on the 19th of May, we celebrate family physicians. Increasing the level of our primary health care and improving accessibility to family physician care is a national health management priority, said Tanel Kiik, Minister of Health and Labour.
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Today, on the 19th of May, we celebrate family physicians. Increasing the level of our primary health care and improving accessibility to family physician care is a national health management priority, said Tanel Kiik, Minister of Health and Labour.

"Family physicians and their team are often the first point of contact within the medical system and care for the health of the person throughout their entire life. I am grateful to all Estonian family physicians who have been present and have assisted during the COVID-19 crisis, promoting vaccination and now providing the required assistance to the Ukrainian refugees", said the Minister of Health and Labour Tanel Kiik“Increasing the level of our primary health care and improving accessibility to family physician care is a national health management priority.”

Many important steps have been taken in recent years, according to the Minister, to strengthen the level of primary health care, and several changes are still being planned. "New health centres have been opened throughout Estonia that can offer better and more contemporary work conditions for family physicians and their teams, as well as offer a broader range of services for their patients. We have also made the required changes in legislation to support the recruitment of young family physicians and family physician centres in remote areas", said Minister Tanel Kiik.

The current distance fees for family physicians were broadly increased in 2020, and the radius of recipients of distance fees was broadened to all family physicians that work outside of Tallinn and Tartu, as well as their neighbouring rural municipalities.

The Riigikogu has also to date received a draft on increasing the primary level that aims to improve accessibility to family physician care and the continuity of service of patient lists. The conditions of the beginner’s allowance will be made more flexible with the draft and young family physicians will be given the opportunity to start with a shorter patient list. Another important change is that nurses will receive the authority to issue incapacity to work certificates.

The Ministry of Social Affairs, together with the Estonian Association of Family Physicians, has started to compile a development plan for primary level health care in which it will outline the development trends and needs for the next decade.  

There continues to be a large shortage of family physicians, and many working family physicians are already at an advanced age, so the residency order for family medicine has also been increased with the agreement of the health care partners. In the upcoming autumn, 40 doctor-residents will be able to start their studies in the residency of family medicine at the University of Tartu.

"All family medicine residence places were filled last year. A family physician is a specialist doctor whose profession is also increasingly appreciated by graduates of medical training", said Minister Tanel Kiik. "The entry of young family physicians into family medicine must be smoother, and we must support and maintain family doctors, who are already doing this responsible work, more in order to ensure that family health care is available in all regions of Estonia.

World Family Doctor Day is celebrated under the leadership of the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), to highlight and recognise the central role of family physicians in the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

Eva Lehtla

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