Providing medical care to the uninsured: the everyday reality at the Magasini Unit of the East-Tallinn Central Hospital

8. March 2016

The staff of the Magasini Unit, led by Heiki Pärnpuu, Senior Doctor, and his assistant Ly Ungru, do their best every single day to provide appropriate and prompt medical care to those who are uninsured for one or another reason. While the majority of patients also have, in addition to health problems, a broken spirit and lack a home and a family, others are freelance artists, students or even limousine drivers.

Working in such an atmosphere is not easy. All the more because the Department of Patients Without Medical Insurance of the East-Tallinn Central Hospital is the only one of its kind in Estonia and patients find their way here from nearby regions or more distant ones. A silent agreement exists here that besides providing medical care, the staff must be prepared to fulfil the role of a social worker, psychologist, pastoral counsellor or simply a good listener, if needed. Here, no one is left without help.

Patching together human souls

The Magasini Unit includes an outpatient as well as an inpatient division. Hospital rooms have a total of 20 beds and there is a separate room for patients with infectious diseases. Outpatient admission is currently – and temporarily – four days a week: from Monday to Thursday from 09:00 to 11:00. If possible, advance registration at 6459 144 is highly recommended. Patients can stay in the inpatient division for up to 60 days and by the end of this period, a solution must be found for their situation. That is, whether to refer the patient to a nursing home or a shelter or find relatives who will continue taking care of him/her.

According to Eve Karmo, Head of the Long-Term Nursing Clinic, people are uninsured for a variety of reasons. One thing is sure – it is not true that only people who have had it rough in life for one reason or another end up here. Patients come from all age groups: some are young, others middle-aged or elderly. Sometimes several generations of the same family are among our patients, while others shyly come for their very first visit. Some are freelance artists, others are students who suddenly find themselves without medical insurance, still others drive a limousine. And there are those who are brought here by a loved one. However, in addition to health problems, the majority of patients also have a broken spirit and lack a home and a family. Whatever has caused their situation, we do not favour certain patients over others and our primary goal is to find a solution to the patient’s problem.

The majority of patients who often end up here live in Tallinn but are uninsured, each for a different reason. Medical care provided here is paid for by the City of Tallinn. In addition to the residents of Tallinn, people from more distant regions also come here to get help. Municipalities and towns unable to treat the uninsured with more serious health conditions sometimes refer them here, paying for their treatment later. Even those who do not have a registered address in Estonia are not sent away without help – in this case, the Ministry of Social Affairs gets involved in paying for their health care bills.

Like a family member in every city district

Ly Ungru has worked at the Magasini Unit for the past 16 years and Dr. Pärnpuu for 14 years. It is the support of these two and of others who work at the Unit and put their heart and soul into what they do that has strengthened the spirit of many and encouraged them to take the first steps in moving up the social ladder. The unit’s employees are well-known and held in high regard in all districts of Tallinn – no wonder that they are treated as family members. When patients have nowhere to turn, employees here seek to hear them out, show understanding and provide help.
Despite the staff here having seen it all over the years, they maintain an extremely positive attitude. Ly Ungru says that this is the only way. The feeling of closeness helps spread information and the trust gained gives strength to make an extra effort.

Your contribution is more than welcome if you would like to support the cause of the Long-Term Nursing Clinic.
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