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Groundbreaking cooperation in health care in the north

Submitted by on 09 Oct 2011 – 12:50

Groundbreaking cooperation in health care in the northBy Saija-Riitta Sadeoja, Municipality of Inari

Care without borders is a cross-border co-operation project on healthcare solutions for the elderly and the handicapped in Inari and Sør-Varanger municipalities in the border area villages Sevettijärvi-Näätämö, Neiden and Bugøynes in Finland and Norway. The project area is distinctively rural and remote area with reduced accessibility to both health care and health workers. This creates challenges also for the care of elderly and the handicapped.

All three villages are remote and relatively small, with 220-250 inhabitants only. Also in all of the villages the population consists mainly of minority groups. In Neiden and Bugøynes the population consists of Kven-people. Kvens are descendants of Finns, who immigrated to Finnmark area at the end of the 1900’Th century. In Sevettijärvi-Näätämö the majority of the population consists of indigenous Skolt Sámi, who were inhabited in Sevettijärvi-Näätämö in the aftermath of the II World War.

In the beginning of the project the focus was on researching the needs of the population. This was done by interviewing inhabitants, members of the target populations and health-care professionals in each village. The biggest concerns the interviewees had, were sense of insecurity and maintaining the standard of care. These concerns were more highlighted in two borderline villages Sevettijärvi-Näätämö and Neiden.

In one of the villages the community nurse had resigned the position and this was strongly mirrored in the survey’s outcome of this particular village. Being a remote village with additional language skills and cultural sensitivity needed, it was difficult to find a competent worker and the position was open for almost one year. However, the two borderline villages Neiden and Sevettijärvi-Näätämö had the same challenges in recruitment and the steering group decided to launch an experiment by recruiting a shared community nurse, who would work on the both sides of the national border. The nurse started in her position at the beginning of March 2011. Both municipalities are pleased with the outcome and thus the community position will be permanent and municipalities are working on a legal agreement, which will be undersigned by the end of the year 2011.

Further practical measures in Care without borders are for also arranging care-services in Bugøynes nursing home in Norway for Sevettijärvi-Näätämö population in Finland. Enhancing interaction between the villages is also paramount and the project is organising field trips between the villages. Project works together with multiple voluntary and official organisations that already function in the area. These organisations are Bugøynes and Neiden helselag, The Skolt Sámi Cultural Foundation, The Skolt Sámi Village Committee and Näätämö village association.

The project is linked with other cross-border health-care projects such as Health-care without borders in Tornio-valley, Development of health-care and social services in Teno-valley and Without borders in the North – cooperation between Enontekiö and Storfjord municipalities. The projects are working in close collaboration in sharing knowledge and workload, and developing ground-breaking solutions for common challenges, which rise from aging population and reduced accessibility to health care due to remoteness.

The project plan was in the minds of the civil servants and the politicians of both municipalities for some years before it was launched with the help of several financiers: European regional development fund Interreg IV A Nord-programme, Regional Council of Lapland, The North Calotte Council and The County Governor of Finnmark. Both municipalities are also funding the project. The aim of the project is to find solutions to address common challenges and enable, enhance and pro-create cross-border collaboration between municipalities, various voluntary organisations and the project populations.

For further information please contact project coordinator Saija-Riitta Sadeoja, e-mail or