Marita Söderström was one of us

This was published by your Editor and she she died 2006… no excuses…

Can you imagine the outcry from parents and teachers if one child is denied a place in a school? It is unthinkable that this would happen in Finland because we all agree that each and every child has a constitutional right to a comprehensive education. Three things are important here – the child has the right (1), to comprehensive (2) education (3). Municipalities have the obligation to provide proper education to all the children. This means that the school must be a proper building with trained teachers who follow a well designed educational syllabus. We the people vote to make sure that the right folk get elected to do this important job and we pay out taxes every month for the education system to operate.

Most of us work for forty years after school. During that time we pay taxes, pension payments and unemployment insurance payments as required by law. The government, municipalities and pension funds receive these taxes and obligatory payments to provide the basic services and our pensions. The most important basic services are education, health care, care of the young and elderly, public transport, water and waste, security and energy.

The supply of money is always limited, unlike all the ways it can be spent. Municipalities and the government try to use our money carefully and productively, but the case of Marita Söderström is evidence that all is not well. You may recall that she was a resident of Helsinki who recently died at the age of 85. She attracted the attention of a reporter at Helsingin Sanomat who wrote about how this lady lived through the last years of her life.

We were told that she was bed ridden and recorded in her diary that over the years some 500 different nurses and social workers looked after her. In the last year of a her life she suffered bone fractures and died in hospital. Her main complaint was that she wanted to have regular and loving care from a small group of trained professionals who she could get to know and trust. She also wanted to stay in her own home where she felt safe and comfortable.

There is nothing out of the ordinary about Marita Söderström. She was just like any one of us. She paid her taxes and has the same rights to comprehensive health care. Can you hear those three points ringing in your ears. The right (1) of comprehensive (2) health care (3). She did not receive it like many others who are not currently receiving it. I know and you know that old folk, you and me in the years to come, are not always getting what they need.

Is anybody questioning their right? Do you live in a city where the city fathers have declared that children have the right to comprehensive education but older folk do not have the right to comprehensive care? Naturally none of the city fathers make declarations of this sort but they fail to deliver. The problem is that the older folk are not equipped to demand their rights. They are possibly too feeble to stand up and bang their stick on the table as Khrushchev did in the UN. Older folk do not have indignant parents to stand up for their children’s rights. Care of the elderly must be a properly organized with trained professionals and adequate health care at both home and hospital. Marita Söderström is a very important because she is just like any one of us.

Is it so difficult to define what comprehensive care should include? Many things could be done to make a national policy instead of side-stepping the question. First, the government and local government should outline what health care services are guaranteed to all people when we retire. They should be forced to operate efficiently just like our schools by giving residents freedom of choice. However, this is not enough. Most people work and contribute taxes and pension payments. This means that other measures are necessary. Pension companies should be closed down and the collection, administration and payment of pensions and moved to a government sponsored organization. This will allow more money for pensions and thus health care when we retire. Today too much is wasted on a poorly designed pension system with bloated administration costs and where there is an incredible practice of paying pension insurance funds back to company clients if investment returns exceed certain targets in any one year. Finally, people should be encouraged to save while they are working for their health care needs when they are retired. Let’s face it, there will be too many oldies looking for a place in the sanatorium in twenty years from now…

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