Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen has expressed his opinion on the invoicing practices of Pirkanmaa Hospital District and the City of Nokia, in which pupils or their parents are expected to themselves pay up front the cost of treating injuries caused by accidents that occur at school. Only then can they apply for reimbursement from the municipality's insurers. This practice is also followed in many other municipalities.
Under the Basic Education Act, an injury due to an accident which takes place at school or in some other place of teaching, during school travel and in accommodation shall be treated free of charge for the pupil. In the Ombudsman's view, treating injuries resulting from accidents that occur at school free of charge should have the same meaning as other free services that are part of basic education. It is hardly thinkable that the parents should first purchase the pupil's books, transport services or school means at their own cost, after which they could apply to the municipality for reimbursement.
According to the Ombudsman, treating an injury that a pupil has sustained at school, which should take place free of charge under the law, cannot lead to a situation where the pupils or their parents are first liable to pay the treatment costs themselves. This practice may result in financial difficulties, potential need for social assistance, debt recovery proceedings and even a record of bad credit. The Ombudsman does not find it acceptable that a service to be provided free of charge under the law can have such consequences.
The Ombudsman requests the authorities to report on the measures they have taken as a result of his comments by the end of the year.
Further information is available from Senior Legal Advisor Håkan Stoor, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3366.