Public health system

Health centres, doctors and dentists

Public health system

Primary health care in Finland is provided by public health centres in each municipality.

Medical services include visiting your general practitioner (GP) and receiving dental treatment. Preventative treatment also falls under the primary health care category.

Finnish health centres

Public health centres (Terveysasemat) in Finland are run by each municipality. You will have to go to the health centre closest to you as it is not possible to make an appointment at a centre outside your municipality. They are generally open for fixed hours every weekday, so it is advisable to make an appointment to be seen if you want to avoid waiting around.

Health centres are usually staffed by three GPs, a midwife and some highly-skilled nurses. The types of health care available include:

  • General health care
  • Health counselling
  • Routine check ups and screening
  • School health services
  • Home visits and care
  • Dental care
  • Maternity care
  • Short stay in-patient wards

Health centres are obliged to give an immediate telephone service and patients must be attended to within a maximum of three working days after they called. However this does not necessarily mean the patient has to visit the health centre, as it can sometimes be possible for a doctor or nurse to assess the patient’s condition over the phone.

General practitioners in Finland

Most municipalities in Finland are switching towards a ‘family doctor’ system. You will need to register with a doctor local to your area who will be your assigned GP. This familiarity places more emphasis on the relationship between doctors and their patients, and also enables patients to see their GP without delays.

The idea of patients being assigned to one GP is to reduce the number of patients being referred to a hospital for further examination, as the GP will have a better idea of the patient’s medical history.

Your GP will be able to provide medical advice as well as general treatment and routine check-ups. You must also obtain a referral from your GP in order to receive hospital treatment. A similar concept applies for Finland’s ‘specialist doctors’ – all patients must be seen by a specialist doctor within three weeks of being referred by their GP.

Some health centres will charge patients over the age of 18 a fee for specific treatments received from your GP. However you may be able to make a claim for reimbursement under the public health insurance system.

Dentists in Finland

If you need to see a dentist urgently you can do so at your local health centre. All you need is to show that you are covered by sufficient health insurance; for example, EU citizens should present their EHIC card. Patients may also be asked to prove their identity with a passport or other travel document.

Not all health centres have a dentist available 24 hours a day. If this is the case in your municipality then you should either go during the fixed surgery hours or make an appointment.

Another option is to see a private dentist, though treatment is inevitably more expensive than it would be at the health centre.

Child health care clinics in Finland

Doctors and nurses provide advice and health care for children at your local child health care clinic. Mothers are urged to visit the clinic both during their pregnancy and once the child has been born for regular routine check ups.

Further reading

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