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On-call dental services have still not been arranged

Rebukes from Ombudsman

Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen has for the second time commented on the fact that on-call dental services are still not being implemented in accordance with the Health Care Act.

The Health Care Act obliges a municipality or an intermunicipal hospital district joint authority to arrange round-the-clock on-call oral health care services to provide urgent treatment. The Act entered into force at the beginning of May 2011.

No on-call service at night

The matter was examined now on the basis of a complaint concerning the municipality of Järvenpää.

It emerged from a report provided by the municipality that in spring 2012 on-call dental services were provided only during office hours on weekdays and, within the framework of regional cooperation, for one hour on Saturdays. With the aid of joint on-call services arranged on an outsourced basis, the on-call period was extended until 9 p.m. in September 2012, but services are still not available during the night.
Järvenpää has reported that the intention is to extend the on-call service provided by Töölö Hospital in Helsinki to the other municipalities in the Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District once a Decree concerning on-call services has entered into force.

The Ombudsman pointed out that the arrangement is not lawful, because a round-the-clock on-call service is not being provided. He likewise does not regard the fact that a Decree is being drafted as an acceptable reason for neglecting a statutory duty.

 Major regional differences

The last time the Ombudsman adopted a position on the matter was in December 2011. It emerged then that there was no round-the-clock on-call dental service in the Helsinki metropolitan region.

The Ombudsman asked the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) to examine how patients' right to urgent oral health treatment is being safeguarded in various parts of Finland. The reports received revealed that there are major regional differences in the way on-call dental care services are arranged.

Unsatisfactory situation

The Ombudsman now notes in his decision that this statutory duty is obviously not being performed in any of Finland's municipalities and hospital districts.
"I find the current situation quite unsatisfactory. The Health Care Act, in which an obligation to arrange round-the-clock on-call oral health care is specifically a statutory requirement, has been in force for over two years and it is already nearly one and a half years since I issued my decision concerning the arrangement of urgent oral health care."

The Ombudsman has sent copies of his decision to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Valvira and the Regional State Administrative Agencies and asked them to inform him, by 30.10.2013, of what measures they have taken in the matter.

Additional info will be provided by Principal Legal Adviser Kaija Tanttinen-Laakkonen, tel. + 358 (0)9 432 3377.