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PM Sipilä denies government crisis over social and health care reform

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has refuted reports of a government crisis over social and health care reform. Earlier Thursday afternoon Yle quoted government sources as saying that Sipilä threatened to dissolve the government unless the three-party coalition agreed to go along with his vision for an ambitious social and health care reform package.

Keskustan puheenjohtaja, pääministeri Juha Sipilä perussuomalaisten ryhmäkokouksessa eduskunnassa Helsingissä.
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä met with Finns Party MPs Thursday afternoon. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Yle reported earlier Thursday afternoon that the leaders of the three-party government coalition had been closeted in talks over the future of its social and health care reform programme. Sources told Yle that the troika had reached an impasse over the number of autonomous administrative regions that would dispense social and health care services under the new model.

Sources said that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä had threatened to dissolve the government is his proposal for 18 administrative districts did not go through. The National Coalition Party was said to be in favour of limiting the number of service regions to no more than 12.

Centre, National Coalition Party not on the same page

Earlier this week Sipilä had indicated that the government’s new proposal for providing social and health care services would be presented on Thursday. However it was evident that Sipilä’s Centre party and the National Coalition party led by Finance Minister Alexander Stubb were already pulling in different directions on the question of how many districts were needed.

The Centre decided in a party leadership meeting three weeks ago that it wanted to establish 18 autonomous regions. At the time the National Coalition party had proposed just five.

The parties were poles apart on the issue, but it was widely assumed that they would reach a compromise in negotiations led by Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Juha Rehula.

The government was also expected to fall back on expert opinions in arriving at a solution. Two previous proposals by different ministerial expert groups both recommended a maximum of 12 regions for providing social and health care services.

PM tables last-minute proposal

The latest twist in the government’s efforts to find common ground on the seminal reform came late Wednesday, when the Prime Minister tabled a proposal based on 18 administrative regions. Sources said that the other coalition parties were told that the Centre was prepared to stake the fate of the government on the issue.

On Wednesday evening Finns Party parliamentary group leader Sampo Terho told Yle’s A-studio discussion programme that his party was closer to the Centre on social and health care reform.

The National Coalition thus stands alone and its party organs were said to be in meetings earlier this week. This morning the party decided that its recommended upper limit for the social and health care regions would be 12.

PM Sipilä: No crisis afoot

Prime Minister Sipilä denied reports that the government was on the brink of collapse over the contested reform programme.

”There is no government crisis, don’t you know what’s being discussed here? We’re discussing one matter,” he told journalists Thursday afternoon.

Pressed on when a decision would be reached on the issue, Sipilä was answered simply:

”Tonight.”

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