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Health watchdog: Senior homes still failing residents

Recent scandals over insufficient and slipshod care have led to few permanent improvements, says Valvira's director general.

Lähihoitaja pitelee potilaan käsistä
Valvira's Markus Henriksson says his agency will start "tough measures" to improve senior services. Image: Anni Reenpää / Lehtikuva

Markus Henriksson, Director General of the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira), says policy and service changes implemented in the wake of numerous elder care scandals that occurred in the last year have been largely temporary in nature, leaving too many significant problems that must still be addressed.

The syndicate Uutissuomalainen reports that Henriksson was of the opinion that there are still too many senior homes in Finland that have serious service shortcomings.

In July, for example, Valvira issued a care home named Herttuatar run by the private firm Attendo in the southern municipality of Kangasala with a 200,000-euro fine for inadequate staffing and medical care. Among other issues, some patients had been given the wrong medicine, while other did not receive any at all.

According to the Uutissuomalainen report, the care facility initially failed to act when the shortcomings were first brought to its attention, but adequate measures were not taken to address them.

60 deaths being investigated

Henriksson said that at first, Valvira expected that issuing reprimands and guidelines would be enough to coerce companies into compliance, but he says that many of the changes that have been made in response to the agency's suggestions have been temporary. In addition, he said, there were several problem areas that were not remedied at all.

"We then came to the conclusion that tougher methods were needed," Henriksson said.

The social and health care watchdog head told Uutissuomalainen that while conditions were now satisfactory at most of the care facilities in the country and many municipalities have improved their supervision, there was plenty of work that remained undone in the sector.

Yle research in May uncovered incidents of neglect or inadequate care in the elderly home care's private sector, which in many cases compromised the safety of senior residents. Insufficient staffing in particular was highlighted, and Valvira later reported looking into the deaths of some 60 people in elder care facilities which may have been caused by malpractice or severe neglect.

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