New Infectious Diseases Act will enter into force on 1 March 2017
There will be a new Infectious Diseases Act. It will aim to prevent infectious diseases from occurring and spreading by means of early diagnosis and effective treatment. The physician in charge of infectious diseases in the municipality will be given a stronger role in decision making, and the administrative burden will be reduced. The President of the Republic approved the new Infectious Diseases Act on 21 December. The Act will enter into force on 1 March 2017.
The new Infectious Diseases Act will repeal the former Communicable Diseases Act, which entered into force in 1986 and has been amended many times since. Several other acts with references to the Infectious Diseases Act will also be amended.
According to the new act, the municipality will still be responsible for actions against infectious diseases in its area as well as for the organisation of health examinations, among other tasks. Hospital districts will support municipalities by providing them with expertise in diagnostics and prevention of infectious diseases as well as outbreak investigations.
The new act will increase the expertise and decision-making power of infectious disease specialists both in the municipalities and in the Regional State Administrative Agencies. In this way it will be possible to swiftly increase the authorities’ powers to prevent infectious diseases. The act will also reinforce the status of the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) as the national expert agency for infectious disease prevention.
Healthcare associated infections and antimicrobial resistance make disease prevention more difficult and increase healthcare costs. In order to prevent them the new act will clarify the obligations and division of responsibilities among healthcare and social service units. This target will be reached by creating new practices in collaboration with national and regional experts in the field of infectious diseases.
The new act will specify the provisions on data access necessary for prevention of infectious diseases. THL, hospital districts and municipalities will have the right to establish registers on a case-by-case basis to investigate outbreaks and track down infection sources. The processing of vaccine adverse event reports will be transferred from THL to the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea).
Under the new Infectious Diseases Act, all levels of administration will have the obligation to prepare for exceptional outbreaks, such as a pandemic. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will have the main responsibility in such situations, as is currently the case. In exceptional outbreak situations the municipalities’ obligation to organise vaccinations can be supplemented by extending the right to administer vaccinations even to other healthcare and social service units and occupational healthcare. Provisions on extended vaccinations rights will be given by Government Decree.
The new Infectious Diseases Act will also introduce a new benefit, infectious disease allowance. It will replace the current benefits, i.e., sickness allowance and compensation for loss of income, available to persons who are absent from work due to quarantine or isolation, for example.