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Minister: Patient Safety Act will not be presented to government

If the divisive legislation was implemented, it would enable administrators to compel striking healthcare workers to return to their jobs.

Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Aki Lindén, (SDP). Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

The Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Aki Lindén, (SDP) said he is not planning to bring the Patient Safety Act for government to enact it as planned on Wednesday, because the ongoing healthcare worker strike was not expanding to other regions.

An implementation of the Act would mean that public healthcare administrators could compel striking workers to return to their jobs, a move that would ensure an adequate number of healthcare employees are available during the industrial action.

Lindén tweeted on Tuesday morning that such a law was not needed because the ongoing strike affecting six healthcare districts is soon coming to an end.

"Because the strike affecting six healthcare districts ends on 15 April at 6am and will not immediately expand as previously planned, and the threatened strike on 15-20 April will not compromise patient safety, I will not take the Patient Safety Act to the government on 13 April [Wednesday]," Lindén tweeted.

However, if the labour dispute is not resolved, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health plans to submit the law to ensure patient safety, but only as a final measure, the ministry announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Divisive legislation

Several parliamentary parties, including ones in the coalition government, have been against the Act. The legislation has also received criticism from healthcare worker unions as well as groups representing employers.

Lindén's announcement came shortly after the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District (HUS)issued a statement saying that the Act would be an "extreme manner in which to secure patient safety."

However, in the same statement, HUS — which is the country's most populous hospital district — said that securing workers for urgent patient care was currently not possible.

"At present the patient care chain does not work. For example, we have negotiated to get more staff in operating rooms. But we cannot operate on a patient if we cannot get needed laboratory tests and imaging services," the district's chief physician Markku Mäkijärvi explained, adding that patients cannot be operated on if there are inadequate staff numbers in recovery wards.

Mäkijärvi said that ongoing labour negotiations are the primary way to solve the problems, not the Patient Safety Act.

Edited on 12 April at 13:43 to add that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health plans to submit the law if the labour dispute is not resolved.