Investigative journalism | Nobody seems to know how many loanable wheelchairs the city of Helsinki has – Reports reveal ten years of chaos

The operation of Helsinki’s auxiliary service service has been in trouble for more than ten years. This is evident from the report of Helsinki’s internal audit, which HS obtained through a request for information.

Unreturnable or the lost equipment and the new supplies purchased to replace them cause significant financial losses to the city every year.

It became clear when Helsinki in 2020, the city conducted an internal audit regarding the acquisition and management of loanable aids. HS obtained the report through a request for information. Based on the inventory, the city owns 93,000 aids.

The scale of the taxpayers’ money used for assistive devices is given by the fact that in 2019 alone, the city of Helsinki purchased new assistive devices for 1.8 million euros.

The last time a similar inspection was done was in 2011, and even then the results were just as bad. The city had therefore not managed to intervene in the situation despite a time window of almost ten years.

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Inspection targeted all loanable and recyclable basic aids in the social and health sector.

According to the report, the procurement of auxiliary equipment in Helsinki has been made in accordance with the law and guidelines. Regarding the procurement of mobility aids, however, the tendering process had started too late.

Based on the report, the biggest problems appeared in the management of lendable aids, which can be found on the basis of the report chaotic effect.

Helsinki the auxiliary service service coordinates, for example, the lending of crutches, rollators and wheelchairs to patients.

With the help of the patient information system in use at the time of the inspection, it was not possible to verify the value of the auxiliary equipment warehouse, the number of equipment, or their exact location.

According to the report, this could have led to unnecessary stockpiling of aids, because the need for aids could not be accurately assessed. It was also not possible to track or recover non-returnable aids effectively enough, which could lead to their loss.

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The city of Helsinki’s leading rehabilitation planner Eva Englund hopes for responsibility from the townspeople as well.

“In my opinion, the root cause for not returning the borrowed aid cannot be solely due to the system or its shortcomings. Library books are also returned at the end of the loan period.”

Englund hopes that the otherwise free, versatile and expertly managed service would be appreciated in such a way that the aids would be returned when the need for use ceased.

It was found in the internal audit that the unsuitable information system increases the amount of manual work, which in turn was considered both error-prone and time-consuming. For example, at Laakso Hospital, aids were kept in several different rooms and in corridors, which meant that work time could be spent looking for and moving the tools between different facilities.

Now we hope that the problems that have been going on for more than ten years will finally be relieved.

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Helsinki’s assistance service recently moved to a new era, when the information system that had caused problems was abandoned.

According to Englund, the new system enables tracking of aids and their automatic recovery. With the help of the updated system, taking inventory is even smoother.

“It’s only been three months since the launch, so many workflows are still under construction. The final benefits and advantages will be seen in the longer term,” says Englund.

“At this stage, however, it can be stated that, for example, when the ordering and borrowing functions are in the same system, we get aggregated current information about the value of the stock and the aids on loan, which helps to anticipate procurement needs,” he continues.

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