Maija Sakslin, Deputy-Ombudsman, gave a decision on a complaint made by 913 persons concerning the treatment of pain patients. The Deputy-Ombudsman has identified shortcomings in the realisation of adequate health services for patients with pain, especially in relation to adequate resources, competent personnel and smooth care chains. In its oversight of legality, the Deputy-Ombudsman will monitor the fulfilment of the rights of pain patients.
According to a report related to the matter, patients have access to pain clinics within the time required by law, except in one hospital district. Valvira’s task is to monitor the deadlines for access to specialised medical care, so Sakslin asked Valvira to take the measures it deems necessary in this case as part of supervising the care guarantee.
In all hospital districts, the responses of pain clinics highlighted the already prevailing shortage of competent professionals. Almost without exception, the responses also raised concerns about the provision of services in the future, as special experts in pain management will retire. The increased number of referrals and the resulting need to provide more services were also seen as a challenge.
Carrying out statutory duties
According to the Constitution of Finland, public authorities have an obligation to ensure adequate health services and that fundamental and human rights are realised. The Deputy-Ombudsman emphasised that hospital districts have an obligation to reserve sufficient resources in order to perform their statutory duties. The Deputy-Ombudsman considered it understandable that recruiting staff with special expertise in pain management can be challenging if competent personnel are not available. The Deputy-Ombudsman expressed her serious concerns about the current insufficiency of competent personnel and about ensuring that there are enough competent personnel in the future.
The Deputy-Ombudsman asked the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to state what measures it will take to ensure the good care of pain patients, adequate health services and sufficient competent personnel in primary healthcare and specialised medical care as well as in future welfare areas.
The full text of Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin’s decision 8381/2020 was published (in Finnish) on the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s website at oikeusasiamies.fi.
Further information is available from Anne Ilkka, Senior Secretary to the Ombudsman, tel. +358 9 432 3346.