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Finnish social, health care leaders increasingly critical of reform plans, says survey

Virtually all of the social and health care sector leaders - some 98 percent - said they think the reforms would result in increased profits for private health care companies.

Pohjois-Karjalan keskussairaalan sisäänkäynti
File photo. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

While plans to reform Finland's social and health care system continue, a growing number of leaders in the sector are starting to wonder if it's a good idea, a survey of executives and directors in the social and health care field finds.

The biggest change that the reform plans - locally referred to as sote - would include measures that consolidate the country's current 295 municipality-based health care facilities into less than 20 separate regions, since small and financially weak municipalities have experienced difficulty providing such services for residents. The reforms would also significantly increase the role of the private sector in providing health services.

The survey was carried out by public health policy lobby group Soste, the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health.

Majority see reform as on track

The informal assessment, which the group calls a "barometer," found positive as well as negative attitudes towards the planned reforms.

An increasing number - some 73 percent - of the sector's leaders said that preparations for the anticipated changes are in place, which is 10 percentage points more than similar respondents answered the year before.

A majority of the respondents also said that the reforms would lead to health care becoming more client-centric and would increase the quality of care which patients receive.

Soste's chair Vertti Kiukas said that it is important that the voices and opinions of the social and health care leaders are heard as the reforms are being hammered out by policymakers.

Increased uncertainty

The barometer also found a good deal of misgivings and unease concerning the planned changes.

Compared to results from last year's survey, more of the respondents said they think the reforms are a bad idea. This year 45 percent said they felt this way, compared to 36 of respondents in last year's opinion roundup.

About a third, some 32 percent, of respondents said the reforms as a whole would be a positive development.

Just over half of the respondents said that the reform plans do not include measures to prevent inequality within social and health care services across the country.

The barometer also showed signs of doubt among respondents about whether the timetables for carrying out the reforms are possible. They also were unsure whether the reforms would actually bring down costs within the social and health care sectors.

Nearly 80 percent of the sectors' leaders said that they do not think planned timetables would hold.

Compared to last year's barometer, respondents increasingly doubted whether the reforms would bring down costs. A year ago 57 percent said they thought the reforms would not save money, but this year 77 percent said they thought so.

Soste's barometer survey queried some 154 social and health care executives and directors from across Finland.

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