REVIEW – November 2002

Occupational diseases require more attention


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In Estonia about 20–30 cases of occupational diseases per 100,000 workers have been diagnosed during the last 12 years. It is 10 times less than in Finland, where the diagnosis of occupational diseases is on a high level. In Estonia, occupational diseases are diagnosed only at the Clinic of Occupational Diseases, while nearly 80% of occupational patients are disabled employees. Statistical data show that the hypodiagnostics of occupational diseases, as well as their late and chance detection are characteristic features for Estonia. The author is of the opinion that the problems related to the diagnosis of occupational diseases are well-known in society, but the society is not yet ready to solve them.
The situation can be caracterized as the so-called “simulation syndrome” where interest groups have no real stimulus for solving the problem, but they are pretending to do so for ethical reasons. According to the author’s opinion the problem can be solved by accepting the Compulsory Insurance Act of Occupational Accidents and Diseases. As a result, a powerful interest group will be created in the form of private insurance companies.  For smooth operation of this Act, it is necessary to improve the criteria of occupational diseases, to work out methods for determination of work ability working capacity caused by an occupational disease, to rearrange timely rehabilitation of occupational patients, to develop the understanding that an occupational disease does not mean total disability and the worker can continue working in his/her speciality in the early stage of an occupational disease. The signal of danger should activate employers to improve the working conditions and to organise early rehabilitation if necessary. In this way it would be possible to avoid severe occupational diseases, to constantly opimize working conditions, to guarantee social security of employees and to integrate in the EU health care system. The importance of the support system – research and academic publications in the field of occupational health – is stressed.