Hospitals and specialised medical care

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for the general planning, steering and monitoring of specialised medical care.

Specialised medical care services are provided at hospitals. Specialised medical care refers to examinations and treatments, such as surgeries, provided by medical specialists at hospitals.

The majority of the hospitals in Finland are public, i.e. owned by municipalities or joint municipal authorities. University hospitals and central hospitals of the hospital districts are responsible for the most demanding medical operations.

Furthermore, there are regional hospitals and local hospitals, such as city hospitals, in Finland. Health centre in-patient wards may also be called hospitals. Private hospitals supplement the public services for example by providing day surgeries.

Provisions on the operations of hospitals are laid down by law

Provisions on the operations of hospitals are laid down in the Health Care Act.

Provisions on the operational arrangements of hospitals are laid down in the Act on Specialised Medical Care.

One of the objectives of the Government Programme is to improve the smooth operation of care chains by the enhancement of cooperation between primary healthcare, specialised medical care, occupational healthcare and social services.

Municipalities are responsible for the organisation of hospital services

Each municipality must see to it that persons domiciled in that municipality receive the necessary specialised medical care. Finland is divided in twenty hospital districts for the purpose of providing specialised medical care. Every municipality belongs to one of the hospital districts. Each hospital district has a central hospital and other hospitals. The hospital district is responsible for the provision of hospital services.

Municipal councils elect the members to the federal councils of the hospital districts. The federal council exercises the highest power of decision in the hospital district. The federal council elects the board and executive management of a hospital. Medical care provided at a hospital is directed and supervised by Senior Medical Officers.

Five of the hospitals in Finland are university hospitals providing highly specialised medical care. Some of the demanding specialised medical care services are organised based on the university hospitals' catchment areas for highly specialised medical care. All the hospital districts belong to a catchment area for highly specialised medical care of one of the university hospitals. Further provisions on the organisation of specialised medical care and the division of responsibilities are laid down by decree.

The provision of certain treatments and operations is centralised on the national level to the university hospitals. Helsinki University Hospital, for instance, has nationwide responsibility for organ transplants and children's open heart surgeries. Further provisions on the organisation and centralisation of highly specialised medical care are laid down by decree.

Access to treatment at hospitals

Prehospital care and emergency care are provided at hospitals for everyone in need of care irrespective of their place of residence.

To receive non-emergency specialised medical care, the patient must have a referral issued for example by a general practitioner at the health centre or an occupational health physician. Access to specialised medical care must be arranged within a specified period of time.

Persons in need of specialised medical services may choose to use any of the treatment facilities operating within that catchment area for highly specialised medical care where their municipality of residence is located.

Authorities' responsibilities in the operations of hospitals

The Regional State Administrative Agencies and the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) plan, steer and monitor the operations of hospitals.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) is the expert agency for specialised medical care. THL also collects statistics on the services provided at hospitals.

Further information

Sirkku Pikkujämsä, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Medical Affairs 
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Department for Clients and Services in Healthcare and Social Welfare / APO, Service System Unit / PAL 0295163014