Government has decided on changes to the draft bill on organisation of rescue services based on comments received
The Ministerial Working Group on Health and Social Services has reviewed the comments received during the consultation round, organised from 15 June to 25 September, on the health and social services reform and outlined policies and made changes to the draft government proposal. The draft bill will be submitted to the Finnish Council of Regulatory Impact Analysis (FCRIA) on 14 October 2020. The Government proposal is due to be submitted to Parliament in early December 2020.
According to the draft proposal, rescue services would in future be organised by the wellbeing services counties (earlier health and social services counties) and the City of Helsinki, which would also be responsible for organising health and social services in their areas. Rescue services would, however, continue to be a separate sector working in parallel with the healthcare and social welfare sector.
Ministries to reassess the adequacy of funding
A central concern expressed in the feedback was the adequacy of funding for rescue services and the criteria for determining the funding. The Ministerial Working Group noted that according to estimates by the Ministry of the Interior, the funding base for rescue services to be transferred from the municipalities would not cover the funding necessary for organising the level of services required by law at the 2020 level. The Ministry of the Interior has estimated the total deficit at EUR 79 million, based on information received from regional rescue services.
Municipalities would be responsible for the level of services and the necessary funding in 2021 and 2022. The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Finance will reassess the level of funding to be transferred from the municipalities to the wellbeing services counties in terms of adequate funding for maintaining the statutory level of rescue services.
Based on the feedback received, the funding model will be adjusted with regard to the criteria determining the risk factors. The risk-factor contents will be defined in a Government decree by the end of the year. Moreover, the risk assessment model for rescue services that was used as the basis for the need-based criteria will be developed on a long-term basis together with regional rescue services.
A new mechanism for oil-pollution compensation funding will be prepared in cooperation between the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Environment. Currently, procurement of equipment and upkeep of oil-spill response are financed with the oil damage duty from the Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.
Central government guidance to focus on strategic matters
The reasoning for the provisions on central government guidance of rescue services have been amended to make it clearer the strategic and interactive nature of the guidance. Guidance would focus on the organising duties of the wellbeing services counties. It would not address the details of or issue obligations on service provision by the wellbeing services counties.
The procedure for the approval of rescue services investment is now in line with the procedure defined in the act on organising healthcare and social welfare. The counties must cover planned investments with their available funding. The aim is to ensure that wellbeing services counties plan their large investment projects in cost-effective ways and take into account similar plans in other counties in their collaborative catchment area.
The provision on the advisory board for rescue services will not be changed. According to the government proposal, the advisory board would be a forum where the wellbeing services counties and the relevant ministries could discuss rescue services and find a common ground. This is in line with the feedback received during the consultation round. Provisions on the composition of the advisory board and its tasks would be laid down by Government decree.
All wellbeing services counties to ensure the organisation of rescue services
The provision on the pooling of rescue services duties to wellbeing services counties has been supplemented. As a rule, all wellbeing services counties would ensure the organisation of rescue services. The pooling of specialised duties to one or more wellbeing services counties would not create any significant differences in their duties.
The mutual liability of wellbeing services counties has been specified as regards the costs of pooled duties that fall within the counties’ responsibilities to organise services.
Active consultation of organisations for contract fire brigades
Contract fire brigades are an essential and indispensable part of the system of rescue services. Organisations for contract fire brigades would be taken into account comprehensively in the central government guidance of rescue services. No changes were made to the entries concerning third-sector consultations.
Organisations for contract fire brigades would be consulted when preparing strategic guidelines for rescue services, when the advisory board for rescue services carries out its tasks and when the Ministry of the Interior negotiates with the wellbeing services counties on the implementation of rescue services duties.
Some of the feedback taken into account in other legislation
A significant part of the feedback received during the consultation round discussed the application and implementation of the proposed legislation instead of proposing amendments to the draft bill. The draft bill has not been amended based on the feedback received, although some changes have been made to the reasons for provisions.
Some of the matters discussed in the feedback is or will be included in other legislation, such as the Rescue Act and the act on the funding of wellbeing services counties and the act on wellbeing services counties. The application-related feedback will be taken into account in the implementation of the legislation.