Tallinn's home doctor brigades to carry out visits until the end of May

A home doctor pilot project continues in Tallinn to ensure that children with health emergencies receive medical care at the weekend. Almost 270 home visits have been made this year. Home visits will be temporarily suspended for the summer months before resuming in September.

"Parents mainly call the home doctor when a young child is ill. 54 home visits were made in March, with children averaging 2.6 years old. The most common reason for a home call is the parent's concern about a child who has suddenly fallen ill or has been sick for several days," said Deputy Mayor Betina Beškina. "In about a third of cases, a family doctor or nurse has been consulted, but the illness has not receded. Nearly a fifth of parents have been advised to call a GP by the GP advice line 1220. In some cases, the child has come down with a sudden onset of severe catarrh, which has made parents very concerned."

One of the aims of the pilot project was to reduce the workload in the emergency medicine department of Tallinn Children's Hospital. The number of families visiting the EMD is particularly high on the weekends, when the family doctor is not available. While 65-70 children per day normally visit the children's hospital's emergency department, this could rise to 90-120 at weekends and during peak virus seasons. Tallinn Ambulance's annual reports show that last year, 7220 visits were made to children aged 0-12 years, 38 percent of the patients were taken to hospital, 62 percent of the time it was not necessary. 

"So, the majority of cases do not require an ambulance, but parents still need advice on how to care for their child and reassurance about the child's condition," said Beškina.

A home doctor can be called on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for children fallen ill aged 0-12. A general practitioner or a paediatrician will make a home visit together with an emergency medical technician from Tallinn Ambulance on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2 pm to 10 pm. Bookings for a visit are received by a dispatcher of Tallinn Ambulance on 6971145 from 12 noon to 8 pm. Home doctor brigades also issue prescriptions for medication when necessary. This year, 55.5 percent of cases have required a prescription.

The home doctor pilot project was launched by the Tallinn Social Welfare and Health Care Department in cooperation with Tallinn Ambulance and Tallinn Children's Hospital in 2020. The project is funded from the budget of the city of Tallinn, with €115,000 earmarked for 2022.