Cabinet members watched how the votes fell in the session hall of the Parliament House in Helsinki on 23 June 2021. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

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MEMBERS of the Finnish Parliament on Wednesday gave their backing to the long-discussed social and health care reform by a vote of 105 for and 77 against, setting off a historic overhaul in Finland.

The reform will transfer the responsibility for organising social and health care services from municipalities to a total of 21 larger domains, known as welfare regions. The funding of social, health care and rescue services, in turn, will be transferred from municipalities to the central administration.

The City of Helsinki is the only municipality that will remain responsible for organising social and health care services for its residents.

Decisions about the actual organisation of social, health care and rescue services will be made by regional councillors who are to be selected in elections starting in early 2022. The welfare regions, though, will begin their work under the leadership of an interim administration before the first elections.

The Parliament voted on the issue as expected, with not a single ruling-party member voting against and not a single opposition member voting for the reform. A total of 17 lawmakers were absent from the vote.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on Wednesday said the welfare regions will be set up as quickly as possible following the passing of the laws. The laws will enter into effect in a staggered fashion, between 1 July 2021 and early 2023.

The objective of the reform is to improve the availability and accessibility of social and health care services, as well as secure the supply of skilled employees. The government also said it is seeking to guarantee equitably and high-quality social and health care services to everyone and address the challenges brought on by societal change and mitigate the increase in service costs.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT