Municipal public-health work is the foundation of the Finnish health system. Local authorities run about 172 health centres; 106 of these are municipal health centres, and the rest 36 belong to joint municipal authorities made up of several local authorities. The Kainuu region in northern Finland is experimenting on providing health care services on regional basis.
Preventive health care is also considered very important in Finland. The services of prenatal clinics and child health clinics, for instance, are available free of charge to all families. All mothers of newborn babies receive a maternity package or its value in money. Environmental health care is regarded as part of basic health care.
Alongside municipal health care, there is an occupational health service system, financed by employers and the State, which is responsible for much of the health care for the workforce. There is also a relatively extensive system of private medical services, partly financed by the sickness insurance system.
Hospitals run by joint municipal authorities
Hospitals run by joint municipal authorities provide 95 per cent of all specialist medical care; the remaining 5 per cent is provided by the private sector.
Every local authority is required by law to be a member of a joint municipal authority administering a hospital district. There are 20 hospital districts in all.
The service structure of municipal specialist medical care has been reformed in recent years. Hospitals have also rationalised their research and patient care practices. The number of wards and hospital beds are being cut, whereas outpatient care is being made more efficient and measures such as outpatient surgery are becoming more common.
Specialist medical care is investing in quality systems. Various auditing systems are being introduced. Information systems in specialist medical care, such as medical histories and systems for patient administration and referrals are being computerised.
As part of health care, hospitals are forming networks, and the cohesion of the entire health-care sector is being improved.
Fees are charged for visits to health centres and stays in hospital.
Waiting-time guarantee ensures access to health care services
Finland has a system of waiting-time guarantee, which ensures that a client can make immediate contact with a health centre on weekdays during office hours. In practice, this means service and guidance by telephone.
Patients’ need for treatment will be assessed within three days of their contacting a health centre. If the need for treatment cannot be assessed by phone, an appointment will be booked within three days of patients’ contacting the health centre. Treatments and examinations that are not available at the health centre must be provided within three months.
The need for hospital treatment must be assessed within three weeks. The evaluation may be based on a referral, or the patient may be asked to come to the hospital for an assessment. If the physician decides that the patient needs hospital care, treatment must be provided within six months.
In matters of oral health care, immediate contact with the health centre is also available. Treatment must be arranged within reasonable time, but within six months at the latest.