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Care home crisis talks produce 25-point improvement list as opposition parties table confidence motion

A 2-hour meeting between government and care providers produced a 25-point plan for improving care for the elderly—but opposition parties remained unimpressed.

Keskustan perhe- ja peruspalveluministeri Annika Saarikko
Keskustan perhe- ja peruspalveluministeri Annika Saarikko Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

An ongoing scandal over poor care standards in privately-run homes for the elderly brought a lengthy crisis meeting with the minister responsible, a list of 25 promises of improvement, and a confidence motion in the government signed by every opposition party on Friday.

The Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, Annika Saariko, said that the full proposals will be published on Wednesday after all parties have had chance to review the meeting’s conclusions.

No agreement was reached on a minimum staff-customer ratio, but Saariko said that they would at least recommend that current staffing levels would not be reduced further. All Finland’s political parties with the exception of the centre-right National Coalition currently support mandatory minimum staffing levels in care homes.

Saarikko also said that employment contracts in the sector should be reviewed to embolden whistle-blowers, after criticism from employment law experts that current contracts for care workers could have the effect of gagging them and preventing problems coming to light.

'Ghost nurses'

She added that there would be ‘zero tolerance’ of under-nourishment among care home residents, and stricter punishments for negligence added to the statute book.

The meeting, which included civil servants and representatives from the care sector including under-fire companies Esperi Care and Attendo, was based on trust, according to Saarikko.

“As I’ve learnt to trust people, I have reason to trust that these [promises] will be adhered to,” said the minister, who admitted that there was no compulsion involved in the meeting.

The CEO of Esperi Care has already resigned over the scandal.

She said that the ‘ghost nurse’ problem, in which staffing levels are artificially inflated on staff rotas by inserting nurses who do not actually perform any work, should be banished from Finland.

At the same time in parliament opposition parties tabled an interpellation debate on the topic, which will trigger a confidence vote in the government. That debate will take place on Wednesday, with the vote scheduled for Friday.

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