|David Brown is a language consultant and journalist, regularly covering stories in Africa, Asia & the Middle East. He has lived in Finland for 10 years.|
During the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to make extensive use of Finland’s health care facilities. Not that I would have really wanted this opportunity, of course, but I must admit that I have been curious as to how good the hospitals here really are.
I have undergone a couple of different outpatient medical procedures, and such a battery of tests that I could now find my way to the Meilahti Hospital laboratory in complete darkness.
So far, the entire cost for two days (but no overnights) in hospital, two procedures, two meetings with specialists and the aforementioned tests comes to around €100. One seven-hour treatment was priced at €8.
I can’t imagine what these costs might have been in other countries, but in the US (and without health insurance) I could well have been facing bankruptcy. Given that I have three more procedures to come, I can’t say how relieved I am that the one thing I don’t need to stress about is cost.
Even so, reducing healthcare to simply the price tag is to miss the point. The real issue is the quality of care, and in this Finland must rank very close to number one in the world. Passing from unit to unit and doctor to nurse the care is exceptional; professional, kind and efficient.
It has also been fast; I met with a specialist on a Friday afternoon a week after my initial tests, and began treatment the following Wednesday – a far cry from the rumours of endless queues and delays I’ve seen in the media.
While I have no doubt that those stories are true, the good news here is that there is a system and it does work. I was offered a CT scan in a private clinic for €550, provided within 24 hours. Via the public sector it cost €7, and was provided within one week.
The equipment has been state-of-the-art, and everything has run like a well-polished machine. Well, almost everything. Because I have to pick fault with one element of Finnish healthcare, it is the communication between hospital and patient. Appointment times are sent to patients not online, or by text or email, but using letters. In one case, I received a letter on Thursday informing me that I had a meeting with a specialist – on the same day.
As a foreigner here, I do feel privileged to be able to use the health system. It is, in almost every way, better care than I would have received in my own country. It is a system that I can also feel proud of, and I’m delighted to tell Finns that they should feel proud of it as well. My hope now is only that I never need to use the system again.