The new proposal to reform the Finnish social welfare and health care system is a good step forward, views Juhani Eskola, the director general at THL.Juhani Eskola, the director general at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), lauds the proposal for the organisation of social welfare and health care services unveiled by leading cabinet and opposition members on Sunday.

“It was more ambitious than I thought. This was a very good step,” he says.

By assigning organisational responsibility to five large districts, Eskola views, the proposed model ensures that the emphasis of social welfare and health care services is where it should be, “on primary-level services and preventive work”.

In addition, the districts will be able to re-allocate the resources at their disposal and due to their size are in a stronger position when negotiating with providers of information systems.

“Overall, the signs are good.”

Whereas lawmakers touted in a news conference on Sunday that the proposal would also improve the quality of short-distance services, Eskola reminds that improvements in quality tend to require further investments. However, he also points out that experts have only estimated the savings that would be created by reducing the number of bodies responsible for the organisation of services from the current 170 to 20.

Under the new proposal, only five districts would be responsible for the organisation.

“Will it generate further savings? At least it enables the optimal use of resources,” gauges Eskola.

The proposal hammered out by the cabinet and opposition would assign the decision-making authority over social welfare and health care services to five districts, which are based on the current special responsibility areas and each comprise some 60 municipalities and 1,000,000 residents. The decision-making will be overseen by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Hence, the power of small municipalities to determine whether an old health care centre can continue its operations will diminish considerably.

The residents of such municipalities, Eskola concedes, are now justifiably concerned about the future of their local health care centres. “But the concerns would persist also, if the service providers were small and weak,” he points out.

“The chairpersons all affirmed that this is a good solution. What had to yield was local decision-making authority.”

Juha-Pekka Raeste – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Benjamin Suomela