Every day, some 30 people in Estonia call the Health Board complaining that a family doctor in Tallinn won't take them as a patient even though they technically have room on their patient rosters to accept new patients. Family doctors, however, find that working with too large a patient list could jeopardise the quality and accessibility of their care.
Family doctors want to keep patient rolls capped at 1,600
Estonian Society of Family Doctors chairperson Le Vallikivi explained to daily Postimees that they are faced with a decision: either break the law that does not allow doctors to turn away a patient unless their patient rolls have been maxed out, or break the law according to which an acutely ill patient must be seen the same day that they call and a patient with a chronic illness within five business days of calling.
Vallikivi noted that when family doctors began working in the early 2000s, patient rolls were just as large in size, but there was half as much work. Over the years, however, family doctors' workloads have increased, as society is aging, incidents of chronic illness are increasing in number and doctors are tasked with preventive care.
At the end of June, the Health Board launched compliance procedures regarding three family doctors that refused to expand their patient pools.
The Health Board also has the right to order a family doctor add patients to their patient rolls, which it has done on 18 occasions so far this year. Should a doctor defy an order by the agency, they must pay a penalty of up to €640.