Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen has observed that a round-the-clock on-call dental service is not available in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
He points out that already under the law in force at the time of his observation, a patient in need of urgent treatment, also urgent oral health care, had to receive treatment at once.
This means, in the Ombudsman's view, that the public authorities have a duty to arrange municipal oral health care in such a way that patients in need of urgent oral health care can receive treatment immediately. This implies an obligation to arrange a round-the-clock on-call dental service.
The Ombudsman noted that this obligation is explicitly stated in the new Health Care Act due to come into force on 1.5.2011.
The way in which on-call dental services are arranged in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area was criticised in a complaint case. The complainant reported that the first-aid clinic at Töölö Hospital and Haartman Hospital had refused to admit her early one weekday morning, although she was suffering from a wisdom tooth root infection and the strong pain, dizziness and nausea resulting from it.
Since the complainant was most obviously in need of urgent oral health care, she should have been admitted for treatment immediately. However, that did not happen, because the on-call oral and jaw surgery services arranged by the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District's Töölö Hospital are not, with a few exceptions, responsible for toothache cases, nor for other dental complaints requiring handling on an on-call basis, either.
Patients suffering from dental illnesses of this kind and requiring urgent treatment have been advised to seek treatment at health centres. However, round-the-clock on-call dental services have not been arranged in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
The Ombudsman has no information on how the right to urgent oral health care is being implemented in the rest of the country. He has asked the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) to examine how patients' right to urgent oral health care is being safeguarded in various parts of Finland.
He has asked Valvira to inform him, by 30.6.2011, of its observations and any measures that it has taken in the matter.
Additional info will be provided by Senior Legal Adviser Kaija Tanttinen-Laakkonen, tel. (0)9 432 3377.