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Speech by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at the opening of the New Children’s Hospital on 6 september 2018 - The President of the Republic of Finland

The President of the Republic of Finland
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Speeches, 9/6/2018

Speech by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at the opening of the New Children’s Hospital on 6 september 2018

Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland<br/>
Photo: Matti Porre/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

Ladies and gentlemen,

A child's illness and suffering touch us deeper than anything else. And when a child recovers, it makes us happier than any other joyful news.

Impressed deep on the Finnish minds, The Convalescent is a painting by Helene Schjerfbeck depicting a sick child who holds a sprouting sprig of hope in her hand and this way expressing both sides of the emotional charge.

Today in this building we can feel how hope is sprouting.

The former new, now old Children’s Hospital and Children’s Castle were opened in this area almost exactly seventy years ago. Those days Finland was a very different country. The war was over, but it had taken great sacrifices and there was a lack of everything. Child mortality was high, and health care, nutrition and medication were insufficient. In such a situation, the new hospitals laid the foundation for health care and paediatric training. The children’s hospitals gave hope for the future.

Children are our future. During the decades, there have been numerous original innovations to support children and their parents in Finland, and some of them have been copied abroad. Child health centres, the maternity package, parental leaves and day care are not only natural but also essential parts of the lives of families with children.

We have achieved many good things; children's wellbeing in Finland is rated among the highest in the world. We have the third lowest infant mortality. Finland has also been defined as one of the best countries in the world to be a mother. All this has contributed to Finland being one of the most stable countries on the planet.

They say that when there is a will, there is a way. The fact that we are here today is the result of the huge willpower of several individuals. The opening of the New Children's Hospital is but a beginning, but it is also the end point to the work that has been done for the new hospital.

Before this opening ceremony, there have been years of influential work, decisions, fundraisings, publicity, planning and construction. One of the main promoters of the project in HUS has been Paediatrician and Director Jari Petäjä who spoke before me. Tuomas Aho, Attorney-at-Law from Espoo, was affected by the news about the poor condition of the old facility and his own experience of the place. Something had to be done. Aho and Petäjä found each other. Soon they were joined by Anne Berner who gave the project a face and a voice. More people joined in, and the dream grew bigger. A support foundation was formed and cooperation agreed on with HUS and the state.

Many donors had personal experience of the children’s hospital. Herself a former patient, 18-year-old Anna Rukko collected a significant donation for the new hospital by selling jewellery she made herself.  Many Finns were also familiar with the inadequate facilities of the old hospital, having visited their children or their friends’ children there.

The yield of the public fundraising, nearly 39 million euro, is a considerable sum of money. Numerous people also donated their time and competence for the project. In total, over a million Finnish people participated in the fundraising to build the new hospital.

Collecting private money for a children's hospital caused quite a lot debate at first. A children’s hospital was not considered the most urgent project in the public sector’s evaluations. But once the private initiative had been made, it progressed well together with a wide public contribution.

You should not question the position of the public sector as the guarantor of our wellbeing, but we should not question the good will of private donors either.

In autumn 1940, newspaper Helsingin Sanomat wrote that there was a dire need for children’s hospitals in our country. North from Vaasa, there were no paediatricians. At the time, the construction of a new children’s hospital was justified with paediatric training.

Education and research are also an essential part of the hospital’s activities today. The New Children’s Hospital will not only focus on the treatment of illnesses but also on the development of expertise and treatments.

Competent and highly motivated staff has a central role in health care. Top competence is created when committed people work together. In the New Children’s Hospital, competent and committed people work together for an important cause.

Even when the old facilities were criticised, the staff always received lots of positive feedback. They provided the best possible care in the circumstances. Dear health care professionals, you are the guardians of hope. The creation of this hospital shows how much your work is appreciated and how grateful people are to you.

The New Children’s Hospital is not one of its kind. Many of our hospitals treat child patients to their best ability. The most important task of the New Children’s Hospital is therefore to provide the most demanding specialised health care of the highest quality. The New Children’s Hospital is for the entire country and will serve every child who needs treatment.

No matter how good the treatment and how competent the staff, young patients will always need and miss their parents. The presence of parents can also support healing. Families can stay together in the New Children’s Hospital. Parents can participate in all activities and enter all facilities day and night. Illness will not isolate but unite.

Children have been heard when designing the interior of the hospital. Moomin philosophy is present all around the hospital in the various themes. Starting from the basement, Moomin images create a journey from the ocean floor to the beach, and up towards space.

“Storms probably exist only because after them we can have a sunrise,” once said Moominpappa. Because good will follow the bad, and little patients will see the sunrise. This is what we all hope from the bottom of our hearts.

I wish all the best for the hospital, we have a huge respect for you. 

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Updated 9/6/2018

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