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Monday's papers: Private health clinic referrals, Silicon Valley of the east, and Finns' drug use survey

Monday's papers discuss a private health care provider's new referral system, high-tech development in Karelia, and illegal substances in Finland.

Terveystalon kyltti.
Image: Jouki Väinämö / Yle

National daily Helsingin Sanomat (HS) reports that private healthcare services provider Terveystalo tries to prevent patients from accessing their own paperwork, effectively blocking them from seeking treatment elsewhere.

According to HS, a Terveystalo clinic in Lahti has introduced a policy of paperless referrals where the doctor is no longer allowed to print a referral for lab exams, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or physiotherapy for the patient. With this policy, the private clinic wants to ensure that patients use Terveystalo’s services, and do not take the referral to another provider that could be cheaper, HS says.

The Finnish Medial Association (FMA) says this is wrong as it constrains patients’ freedom of choice.

“Patients have the right to choose the place of treatment. It’s their money and they are entitled to see if an MRI is 200 euros cheaper elsewhere, for instance,” says FMA’s Kati Myllymäki.

Joni Suomi from Terveystalo says doctors do not automatically print out a referral, because most of the MRIs take place in the clinic.

“We can see the referral in our electronic system, which makes a print-out obsolete.”

Suomi also says Terveystalo aims to provide its patients a fast and uninterrupted medical treatment chain. When the required examinations, X-rays and MRIs take place at Terveystalo, the doctor can see and analyse the results quickly, Suomi adds.

According to Terveystalo’s web site, the out-of-pocket cost a patient must pay for a brain MRI is 495 euros. However, there are specialised MRI providers available in Finland, which only charge 250 euros for the service, HS adds.

Silicon Valley in Karelia

Russia is looking to build a 'Silicon Valley' across the border in Finnish Karelia, reports tabloid paper Ilta-Sanomat

Russian Karelia’s ministry of economy and industry has unveiled plans to construct a town accommodating up to 50,000 people just 10 km from the Finnish town of Parikkala. Currently, the site of the planned development – the village of Alho – has 65 residents, Ilta-Sanomat reports.

According to the ministry, the revitalisation project would entail the construction of a university and a national park focusing on ancient cultures, as well as a holiday centre, an amusement park and a Lake Ladoga museum.

With the development, Karelia aims to attract high-tech companies, tourists and transportation investments, including an airport into the area.

However, Laura Solanko, a specialist of Russian economic development from the Bank of Finland is sceptical.

"This sounds totally crazy and very Soviet-like. Nobody in their right mind can think that even half of these plans will materialise."

"Russia has never lacked grandiose ideas and this one seems to be a response to President Putin’s recent directive to boost productivity and digitalisation,” Solanko adds.

According to Solanko, there are many other regions in Russia with similar schemes, including Kazan in Tatarstan.

"The blueprints must come from the one and same place."

Ilta-Sanomat says Karelia could certainly benefit from a Silicon Valley of its own. At the moment, unemployment in the region is higher than on average in Russia, there is little industry left, the population is dying out and child mortality is much higher than in Finland, for example.

Drug use

Meanwhile, Oulu-based daily Kaleva reports that the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is looking into Finns’ drug use this autumn.

THL's forthcoming survey aims to find out whether drug use is on the rise in Finland, and what attitudes people have towards illegal narcotic substances.

According to Kaleva, 7,000 people between the ages of 15-69 have been randomly picked for the survey. They will receive the questionnaires in the post this week.

THL has carried out studies on Finns’ substance use every four years since 1992, Kaleva says.

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