A colourful new hospital for treating paediatric illnesses has opened in Finland's capital city of Helsinki, part of the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa HUS. The facility will treat children under the age of 15 from across the country, and be the main provider of more demanding paediatric treatment like heart surgery and organ transplants.
President Sauli Niinistö attended the grand opening on Thursday along with about 200 other invited guests.
He referred in his speech to one of Finland's most beloved paintings: Helene Schjerbeck's The Convalescent, which he said depicted not only the suffering of a sick child, but also the shining hope of recovery.
"Today, in this space, you can't help but get the sense that hope springs eternal," Niinistö said.
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Niinistö was joined by his wife, Jenni Haukio, and Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner, who was instrumental in founding a support foundation to raise money for the new building in 2013. Built in 1946 and 1948, the previous Children's Hospital and the Children's Castle had long been in a dilapidated state.
Construction of the hospital – which began in 2014 – cost about 170 million euros, nearly 40 million of which was gathered through the fundraising campaign.
"Almost 39 million euros was raised by the national drive, an incredible sum. Many people gave their time and lent their expertise to the project. Altogether, over one million residents of Finland participated in the campaign to build the new hospital," the president mentioned.
Niinistö recognised that the private fundraising effort was controversial at the time, with several politicians criticising the use of private funds as opposed to money raised from taxes.
"But when the private initiative emerged, it gathered momentum in tandem with a very strong state commitment," Niinistö said. "We shouldn't call the role of the public sector as a guarantee of our well-being into question, but there's also no reason to question the willpower of private individuals who want to help," he said.
Already nominated for an architecture prize
The New Children's Hospital features eight floors above ground, a basement, and a machine room floor on the roof. It has over 2,000 rooms, including 12 operating rooms, 16 intensive care units, 118 wards and 220 consultation or rehabilitation rooms. The façade is decorated with 180 brightly-coloured glass panels. The striking building has been shortlisted for the 2018 Finlandia Prize for Architecture
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One of the most significant improvements about the new building is that it will enable parents or guardians to be more present when their youngsters are hospitalized. Parents will now have the opportunity to stay overnight at the hospital, for example.