What happens if you don’t speak Finnish or Swedish and need to take your one-year-old baby to the doctor’s? What about if the doctor isn’t a Finn? Migrant Tales got the following email from one of our readers:
Hi, I’ve lived in Helsinki for 3 years and would like to share a story that happened to me, my European husband and baby. I’m sharing this story with you because it was the most racist treatment my family had ever received in Finland.
On February 2013, I went to the children’s clinic because my baby was suffering from high fever. Arriving at the clinic in the morning, I was told that no doctor was available to treat my baby girl. The nurse was, however, very helpful. She took us to a room and gave medicine. The nurse recommended that we visit our local health center in [in the eastern Helsinki neighborhood of] Kontula, which she called on our behalf but there were no doctors available on that day. We were then sent to the Myllypuro health center, where we had an appointment with a doctor at 1:30pm.
We arrived to the Myllypuro health center at 1:25pm. Since it was the first time we’d been there, we didn’t know where to go. We asked a clerk at the information desk, who told us that we were in the right place. While this was happening, I heard from afar my name but wasn’t totally sure. We took a seat and waited for our name to be called by a doctor.
At 1:40pm the doctor called my name. In a very rude manner and speaking only Finnish, which we had difficulty understanding since we don’t speak Finnish well, the doctor said he wouldn’t treat us in English. He said in English that the health center doesn’t accept patients who don’t speak Finnish.
I asked, even insisted, why he couldn’t speak English since he spoke the language fluently. He answered back in a rude manner and we continued to argue. I told him that I wouldn’t leave until he treated my baby. The doctor then threatened to call the police if we didn’t leave. He said that we were in the wrong place since we should have gone to the Kontula health center in the first place. He also said that he couldn’t treat my baby because he didn’t have the right medial instruments. I told him that we were sent to the Myllypuro health center by a nurse and that she had made the appointment on our behalf.
I asked him why he treated another couple’s baby and not mine while we waited 20 minutes for the nurse at the Myllypuro health center to make an appointment with a doctor at the Kontula health center. I don’t understand why the doctor who wouldn’t speak English to us or treat our baby wasn’t attending any patients. Couldn’t he have checked my baby at that time?
We got an appointment with a Russian doctor at 3pm. The appointment given to us was that of an African couple, which had to wait before we were treated by the doctor. This was not fair to the African couple, I thought.
We spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon before our baby was finally treated by a doctor. Why didn’t the doctor in Myllypuro help? No compassion exists in this country!
I made a complaint to the Ombudsman explaining exactly what had happened to us.
I got a letter from them stating that I had nothing to complain about since my baby got treated. I’m not happy with the response from the Ombudsman. I may have been slightly late to the health center because I didn’t hear my name called but the treatment I got from the foreign doctor, and that he wouldn’t speak English to us, is is pure racism and discriminatory.
Please tell me what I must do. I feel voiceless in this country, where most Finns want cover up racism at all costs.