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Govt pledges more resources for senior care after heated parliamentary debate

The government has promised new spending on oversight of senior care homes as well as legislative reforms following reports of gross negligence at care homes.

Valtiovarainministeri Petteri Orpo eduskunnan täysistunnossa 6. helmikuuta.
National Coalition Party chair and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

The Juha Sipilä government has promised to allocate additional resources for the purpose of providing oversight of elder care facilities in a supplementary budget proposal to be tabled on 26 February.

Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Annikka Saarikko said her ministry will begin preparing new legislation on elder care services. The reform is expected to include provisions on nursing quotients, over which there has been much debate recently.

Saarikko said however that it will not be possible to implement the 0.7 nurses per elder in care quotient proposed by opposition parties before elections in April. She noted that the measure would require 4,200 new care workers and would increase costs in the sector by 200 million euros.

The government’s assurances came during an opposition interpellation on senior citizens’ care homes, which saw heated exchanges in parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

Opposition parties took particular aim at the National Coalition Party, the only parliamentary group that resisted writing into law a minimum quotient of nurses per elderly person in care.

Just one person conducting care home oversight

NCP chair and Finance Minister Petteri Orpo attempted to explain the party’s position by saying that it supports reform of laws governing elder care. He added that the NCP also backs a binding number of nurses per senior patient, however the party does not support the proposal to introduce a fixed quotient of 0.7 nurses per elderly person in care.

Left Alliance chair Li Andersson said that government’s flagship social and health care reform programme, "sote" would narrow discretion over which services should be outsourced to the private sector and which shouldn’t. "The government’s sote model would not solve the problems in senior care, but would increase them," she declared.

Chair of Swedish Peoples’ Party Anna-Maja Henriksson raised what she described as an intriguing feature of elder care oversight in Finland. According to Henriksson, the national health supervisory authority Valvira employs just one person who is responsible for supervising senior care homes. She asked whether or not government is ready to immediately boost resources in this area.

PM on sick leave

Christian Democratic Party MP Sari Tanus noted that improving elder care calls for one simple measure, "increasing the number of caring hands". "Our shadow budget proposes funding for hiring 1,000 new nurses to rapidly ease the situation," she added.

Elder care in Finland became a radioactive issue following extensive reporting on irregularities and alleged negligence at the privately-run chain of Esperi Care homes. Valvira also announced that it was suspending the firm’s operations over cases of gross negligence.

The government faces a confidence vote on the issue on Friday. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä was absent, having gone on sick leave for two days. He will return to Parliament on Friday for the vote.

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