Empty hallway of the new Kannelmäki healthcare centre in Helsinki. LEHTIKUVA

International news

As Europe faces a critical healthcare workforce shortage, geopolitical tensions, and rising health threats, the Finnish Medical Association (Lääkäriliitto) and the Finnish Union of Health and Social Care Professionals (Tehy) are sounding the alarm. With European Parliament elections on the horizon, these organizations emphasize that a functional healthcare system is essential for a secure society.

The associations urge the European Union to take decisive action to address the healthcare crisis, focusing on areas within its jurisdiction such as digitalization, workforce mobility, occupational safety, and regulation of cross-border health threats.

"A promise of functional healthcare is a promise of stability," summarizes Niina Koivuviita, Chair of the Finnish Medical Association.

The healthcare workforce shortage is a pan-European issue, not just a Finnish problem. "The scarcity of staff and workplace violence severely undermine the quality and availability of healthcare," notes Millariikka Rytkönen, Chair of Tehy.

The unions call on the EU to urgently strengthen occupational safety regulations to attract and retain healthcare workers. Given the fierce competition for skilled personnel, discussions on the ethics and principles of recruitment must continue at the EU level to prevent poorer countries from suffering.

While technological advancements offer significant opportunities, they also pose risks. "A well-implemented European Health Data Space will support health research and facilitate patient data access across borders. This requires careful planning and execution with healthcare professionals to ensure patient data security," Rytkönen states.

In addition to data security, the associations emphasize the need to prepare for information manipulation and hybrid threats.

Climate change presents new challenges for healthcare. "We anticipate more frequent heatwaves and infectious diseases, posing particular challenges to health services. Hospitals and healthcare units must improve energy efficiency, promote recycling, and procure medical equipment and supplies sustainably," Koivuviita explains.

The Finnish Medical Association and Tehy highlight the urgency of addressing these issues to safeguard Europe's healthcare systems and, by extension, its security. They stress the importance of EU-level collaboration and regulation to ensure a resilient healthcare infrastructure capable of withstanding future challenges.