A patient and a nurse in a hospital in Kokkola, Finland. LEHTIKUVA

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The Finnish Medical Association has released a statement warning that cuts to healthcare funding threaten patients' fundamental rights. In its spring meeting on May 12, 2023, the association stated that in the current situation where healthcare costs already exceed the allocated funding and waiting times are at record highs, cutting funding is not a viable way to save costs without completely collapsing the system.

The situation in Finnish healthcare is dire. Waiting times for basic healthcare, specialist care, and social services are at an all-time high. Finnish citizens are waiting longer for both urgent and non-urgent services than can be considered reasonable and are exceeding legal requirements. Additionally, the deficit forecast for well-being areas for this year is nearly a billion euros, and the financing law index does not take into account the growth of wage costs faster than the earnings index. Above all, there is a shortage of healthcare professionals. Staff shortages plague almost all well-being areas, which are suffering from an intertwined crisis of financing, personnel, and care.

At the same time, according to news reports, billion-euro cuts to social and healthcare are being planned at Säätytalo. The Finnish Medical Association understands that the cycle of national debt needs to be halted. However, in the current situation where healthcare costs already exceed the allocated funding and waiting times are at record highs, cutting funding is not a viable way to save costs without completely collapsing the system.

Patients have the right to sufficient healthcare services.

The Ministry of Finance's expenditure review states that "it is not possible to reduce the financing of well-being areas without simultaneously reducing the tasks or obligations of the areas. Index savings could also endanger the adequacy of well-being areas' funding." The expenditure review refers several times to the Constitution, which defines sufficient healthcare services as a fundamental right. It is questionable whether the current situation even meets the requirements of the Constitution, and it is clear that corrective measures require additional funding, not reduced financing.

The Constitution is written with the patient in mind. Every citizen should be able to rely on being able to receive quality care quickly when needed. In addition to patients, the healthcare crisis is also a burden on healthcare workers. The exodus of personnel from the public sector will not end by reducing resources. Säätytalo has been listening closely to the Ministry of Finance, and this must also be done for healthcare. It is crucial to recognize that cutting funding in the current situation will lead to further deterioration of the Finnish healthcare system and a breach of patients' fundamental rights.

HT

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