Master’s thesis: Barriers Faced by Refugees to Access Health Care Services in Finland
Sukhwinder Kaur identified various internal, structural, financial, communicational and socio-cultural barriers faced by refugees in accessing health care services in Finland.
This media release is for the thesis which has been completed as a part of Master’s in Health Care. This thesis has been completed under the programme of Global Health and Crisis Management provided by Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Finland. The topic of this thesis is “Barriers Faced by Refugees to Access Health Care Services in Finland”. The purpose of the thesis was to identify various internal, structural, financial, communicational and socio-cultural barriers faced by refugees in accessing health care services in Finland, and to propose the suggestions to overcome those barriers. The data was collected from the voluntary refugee participants of a reception center in Southern Finland.
The research method used was qualitative, which comprised of focused interviews. The data was collected after an ethical evaluation from the “The Human Sciences Ethics Committee of the Helsinki Region Universities of Applied Sciences” and after receiving the permission from the reception center. The convenience sampling method was used in the recruitment of participants and the data was analyzed using the deductive content analysis method. The existing literature suggested the presence of barriers, such as lack of awareness, language, acculturation, scheduling conflicts, and long waiting lists. Inadequate cooperation at different levels, lack of will and means to cooperate, legal and economic barriers have also been reported in the past by different studies around the world. The findings of this thesis are similar to the already existing findings seen in other studies.
The utilization of health care services is crucial for human beings in any country irrespective of their race, religion, political beliefs, economic or social conditions. We live in a world where people migrate internationally for one or the other reason. When people migrate from their country for the reason of refuge, it becomes challenging to access health care services of the country of refuge for refugees. Refugees have a well-found fear of persecution for the reason of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in particular social group. Once they enter a different country, they desire to stay in that country in the long run, and therefore will rely on that country’s resources for basic necessities such as food, shelter and health care.
In practice, according to European Union Agency for fundamental rights for refugees, the right of health remains under threat. A lot of research and studies have been done about the challenges faced by refugees in accessing health care in the country of refuge. In Finland, the government is committed to provide international protection to people in need. In Finland, asylum seekers are not granted the same entitlements for health services as the Finnish citizens, but in general the Finnish legislation provides asylum seekers a level of access to health services comparable to most western European countries. The system for delivering these services is separate from the general public health care and is organized and funded by migration authorities. The refugee’s health care services are organized at the reception centers in Finland. To find the barriers faced by refugees in Finland this thesis was proposed.
Findings and future implications
Internal barriers faced by refuges in accessing health care in Finland are internal fear, the refugees’ own attitude, lack of knowledge of the complicated health care system, and a mistrust in the beginning because of a bad experience with a health care professional in the countries where they stayed in the way as refugees before reaching to Finland. The structural barriers faced by refugees to access health care in Finland are the long distance between hospitals and reception centers, long waiting times for appointments, scarcity of public transport in remote areas, and missing previous reports. The financial barriers faced by refugees while they access health care in Finland are insufficient finances available for phone calls to be made for booking appointments, and some financial difficulties in case they need to buy some medicines from their available monthly allowances. The communicational and socio-cultural barriers faced by refugees in Finland are the difficulty to understand the Finnish language, difficulty with interpreters, cultural differences, and the lack of cultural competency in the health care system.
The suggestions given by the participants to overcome these barriers are the creation of a separate health care system for refugees, provision of health information in other languages along with English, more culturally competent health care givers, and less distance between hospitals and reception centers. All the participants appreciated the health care system of Finland and efforts of health care professionals. Despite of the barriers faced by refugees in accessing the health care system in Finland, almost all the participants appreciated the health care system, and health care professionals in one way or the other. These findings may help reduce the barriers faced by refugees in accessing health care services in Finland.
Masters in Global Health and Crisis Management
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