Government submitted its proposal on the organisation of rescue services for consideration by Parliament
According to the government proposal, the wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki would be responsible for organising rescue services in their respective areas starting at the beginning of 2023. Contract fire brigades could be used to provide these services as at present. The role of central government guidance and direction in rescue services would be strengthened.
On Tuesday 8 December, the Government submitted a proposal to Parliament concerning the establishment of wellbeing services counties and the reform of healthcare, social welfare and rescue services.
“This reform is made primarily in order to ensure well-functioning basic public services. I consider it important that this reform will improve people's equal access to services and that the long-term preparation is now proceeding to discussion in Parliament,” Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo says.
Towards harmonised and equal rescue services
Currently, municipalities and joint municipal authorities are responsible for the organisation of rescue services. After the reform, the new wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki would be responsible for organising both rescue services and health and social services in their respective areas. However, rescue services would continue to be a separate sector operating alongside the health and social services.
The rescue services reform aims to improve the provision of more harmonised and thus equal rescue services in the whole country. This would safeguard the current level of local emergency services and a comprehensive fire station network across the country.
“The entire basic task of the rescue services is to improve the safety of people, communities and society as a whole. This is also at the heart of this reform. The aim is to improve people's safety by strengthening the provision of rescue services,” says Minister Ohisalo.
The rescue services reform is being carried out as part of the health and social services reform. A further objective is that rescue departments can, in addition to their rescue service duties, continue to provide prehospital emergency medical services and first response services. Currently, the rescue departments carry out approximately 500,000 emergency medical care duties every year. Cooperation will continue to ensure cost-effective and high-quality emergency medical services throughout the country.
Stronger national guidance to improve preparedness for major accidents
As a result of the reform, the role of central government guidance and direction in rescue services would be strengthened. Stronger national guidance and direction would in future guarantee more harmonised rescue services throughout the country. The aim is also to develop the operations of rescue services as a national system.
“The rescue services reform aims to achieve a more efficient and economical system. The reform will also enable us to better prepare for unforeseen threats, rare major accidents, emergencies or natural disasters throughout the country,” says Kimmo Kohvakka, Director General for Rescue Services.
Government guidance would mean that the Government would confirm the national strategic objectives of the rescue services. The Government could also decide on the centralisation of some special tasks carried out by the rescue services so that these are handled by one or more wellbeing services counties. However, each wellbeing services county would organise the most important rescue services in its area.
The Ministry of the Interior would guide and direct the organisation of the rescue services of the wellbeing services counties and the City of Helsinki. The counties and the Ministry of the Interior would hold annual negotiations to provide guidance and direction concerning the organisation of rescue services. In addition, an advisory board for rescue services would be established under the Ministry of the Interior. The ministries responsible for the guidance and direction of the wellbeing services counties would participate in the work of this board. The guidance would be interactive and based on a shared knowledge base.
The county councils of the wellbeing services counties, elected by direct popular vote, would decide on the level and standard of rescue services ensuring that they correspond to national, regional and local needs and the risk of incidents and accidents. The Regional State Administrative Agencies would assess the level and standard of rescue services and be responsible for the oversight of legality of rescue services.
The proposed counties would be established as soon as possible after the passing and approval of the bills. The bills would enter into force in stages, the first ones on 1 July 2021 and the last ones on 1 January 2023. However, Parliament needs to pass the legislative package before the reform can enter into force.
Sameli Sivonen, Special Adviser to the Minister, tel. +358 50 4066 855, [email protected]
Kimmo Kohvakka, Director General for Rescue Services, tel. +358 295 488 400, [email protected]
Ilpo Helismaa, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 488 422, [email protected]