Health care on equal terms

“Health care is a fundamental human right,” says Ville Holmberg, who will be speaking at the Think Corner (Tiedekulma) on 5th November.

Health care is a fundamental human right, says Ville Holmberg, who will be speaking at the Think Corner (Tiedekulma) on 5th November.

In Finland an estimated 3,000 paperless immigrants live outside the public health care system. They only get medical treatment in cases of emergency, and they have to pay the full cost for treatment.

“To me it seems absurd that there should be people who fall outside the fundamental right to health care,” says Dr Ville Holmberg from the Faculty of Medicine.

Dr Holmberg has been involved in establishing a clinic for paperless immigrants in Helsinki, which operates on a voluntary basis. The Global Clinic opened in spring 2011 and since then has been visited by around 300 people.

“A large proportion of the patients are from Romania or Bulgaria, but we have had patients of almost all nationalities,” says Dr Holmberg.

Most of the patients have fairly minor problems, but sometimes serious illnesses such as tuberculosis and hepatitis are detected. A lot of the visits concern pregnancy or contraception. Paperless immigrants are not entitled to maternity or child health care.

“This is despite the fact that the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifically emphasises that mothers and children are entitled to care and assistance,” Dr Holmberg points out.

The clinic has neither a lab nor X-ray equipment. For a doctor the limited care and examination facilities can be frustrating.

“But I’ve been more frustrated working at public hospitals, seeing patients with major health issues being denied treatment because their condition isn’t urgent,” he says.

The Global Clinic wants to promote a debate on how the state or local government might assume responsibility for the health care of paperless individuals. The cost of offering paperless immigrants the same services as permanent residents would be no more than a few million Euro per year.

“This sum should also be measured against the social costs that arise if you fail to treat infectious diseases, for example.”

As a counter argument against care for paperless immigrants, it is often said that we do not want to reward illegal immigration.

“But depriving people of their right to health care is a punishment that doesn’t even get used for any kind of crime,” concludes Dr Holmberg.

Ville Holmberg will be speaking at the Think Corner on 5th November at 4 pm. This lecture will form part of Swedish Week at the Think Corner.

Think Corner (Tiedekulma): Är hälsovård en mänsklig rättighet? De papperslösas klinik »»

Ville Holmberg on the research database Tuhat »»

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Text: Katja Bargum
Photo: Ari Aalto
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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