A swathe of candid camera reports revealing shocking treatment of patients in Estonian hospitals on Monday sparked calls for a massive shake-up in the Baltic state.
"For all the years since Estonia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the people have lacked any objective commission to investigate patients' claims and medical errors," Pille Ilves, president of the Estonian Patient Advocacy Association, told AFP.
AdvertisementThe association has demanded that the government approve the creation of a independent investigation commission, steered by the Estonian police.
"Despite our repeated attempts, Estonia lacks a patients' rights law," Ilves noted.
Over recent weeks, Estonian television has aired a string of reports filmed using hidden cameras revealing abuses such as shackling patients to their beds, leaving them unattended in icy temperatures, threatening them and demanding bribes for treatment.
A recent study by Estonia's prestigious Tartu University estimated that at least 1,500 people die each year in the nation of 1.3 million due to medical errors, in part because of the flouting of basic safety rules.
"Over ten times more people perish every year in Estonia due to medical errors than lose their lives in traffic accidents, but the government is completely ignoring the problem," Ilves claimed.
Estonia's centre-right government rejects such allegations.
"I cannot agree with the accusations. If someone has a problem with their treatment, they should contact the particular hospital and not the media, so the staff in hospital can address the problem," Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said in a recent parliamentary debate.