A doctor examines a patient in the pediatric and adolescent emergency department at the Lighthouse Hospital of Turku University Hospital (Tyks) on February 15, 2024. LEHTIKUVA

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The Finnish Medical Association (Lääkäriliitto) has raised alarm over recent government budget decisions, warning that substantial cuts to public healthcare funding and increased reliance on private healthcare subsidies could severely undermine the nation’s public health system.

The government’s budget plan includes a €550 million reduction in funding for welfare regions by 2028.

Notably, it also eliminates the 14-day care guarantee in primary healthcare, enacted last November, and imposes an additional €100 million in patient fees. Concurrently, the government is significantly boosting subsidies for private healthcare, with Kela reimbursements set to increase by €500 million during the current administration.

Escalating Challenges for Public Healthcare

The Finnish Medical Association condemns these measures as irresponsible, predicting that they will exacerbate already long waiting times in public healthcare, increase costs for users, and drive healthcare professionals away from the public sector, which is already grappling with staff shortages.

“These actions send a clear message that there is no intention to solve the problems in public healthcare,” the association stated. “Instead, these measures will only worsen the existing issues.”

Right to Adequate Healthcare is Non-Negotiable

According to the Finnish Constitution, every citizen has the right to adequate healthcare services. This fundamental right is not up for negotiation. Public trust in healthcare has been declining, with a recent Citizens’ Pulse survey showing that confidence has plummeted from over 90% in 2020 to just 58%, the lowest level recorded by the survey.

The Finnish Medical Association is deeply concerned that further cuts will erode both public and staff confidence in the system’s ability to uphold these constitutional rights.

Advocating for a Family Doctor Model

The association emphasizes the importance of primary healthcare, describing it as the cornerstone of the healthcare system. However, the continuity and availability of primary care in Finland have been inadequate. In most European welfare states, primary care is managed through a family doctor model, which has proven effective.

“There is no reason to believe that a family doctor model would not work in Finland,” the association asserted. They are urging the government to reverse the cuts to public healthcare and to implement the new Kela reimbursement model using a family doctor framework.

Call to Action

The Finnish Medical Association’s appeal to the government is clear: protect and enhance public healthcare services to ensure all citizens have access to the care they need, regardless of economic conditions. As the debate continues, the future of Finland’s public healthcare system hangs in the balance, with potential long-term consequences for the nation’s health and well-being.

HT

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