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Services for the elderly inspected by Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin during the coronavirus pandemic

On Deputy Ombudsman Maija Sakslin's orders, three inspection visits were made in the assisted living facilities for the elderly of Siun sote – Joint municipal authority for North Karelia social and health services during the coronavirus pandemic. The inspections also covered the activities of client guidance in services for elderly people. During the inspections, more than 80 clients and their family members wanted to share their experiences.

Lack of places in intensified assisted living and the availability of nursing staff as challenges

During inspection visits, both the clients and the staff highlighted that access to intensified assisted living has become very congested.

The Deputy-Ombudsman considers that, if no suitable place for a client has been found within three months, it is not an appropriate practice to oblige him or her to choose a 24-hour intensified assisted living facility within the entire Siun sote area. The Deputy-Ombudsman underscores that an elderly person should not be officially assigned a service unit that is not suitable for him or her and then interpret a refusal to accept the service as a reason to start the queuing for a place in intensified assisted living all over again. The service unit may be unsuitable for the person, for example, because it is so far away from his or her immediate family that it would make it practically impossible for him or her to meet them anymore. The Deputy-Ombudsman also states that the legal obligation to provide services responding to the person's needs does not mean that 24-hour nursing or care could be provided, for example, in an inpatient ward of a health centre hospital for prolonged periods if there is no need for such care.

The Deputy-Ombudsman stressed that in spite of the challenges in the availability of staff, the failure to provide care cannot be justified by limited resources. The Deputy-Ombudsman required that the operating units ensure that the staff sizing is kept at the level required by law. The sizing must be kept above the minimum level if the clients’ functional capacity and service needs, and ensuring the quality of services so require. 

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on services

The Deputy-Ombudsman drew attention to the fact that, during the coronavirus period, housing service units have significantly cut back their operations. The Deputy-Ombudsman does not consider it appropriate that housing service units do not maintain sufficient opportunities for outdoor recreation and other activities to maintain the functional capacity of the elderly people in need of special support placed in their care. There were also shortcomings in the organisation of health care services. 

The Deputy-Ombudsman found it positive that, during the coronavirus period, all families receiving informal care support had been contacted. However, the Deputy-Ombudsman drew attention to the fact that the informal care providers have not been provided with sufficient services to support them during the coronavirus period. The Deputy-Ombudsman noted that the closure of services may have led to unreasonable situations when combined with the fact that the service needs of some of the clients had accumulated even before the coronavirus period began. The restrictions of visits and movement have been investigated in case 5463/2020

The inspection records of Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin 1389/2020, 1760/2020 and 1823/2020 are published in Finnish on the Ombudsman's website at www.oikeusasiamies.fi.

Further information is available from Senior Legal Adviser Lotta Hämeen-Anttila, tel. +358 9 432 3353.