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Thursday's papers: Nursing strike, defence spending, new reception centres

A strike by 25,000 public sector nurses scheduled to start on Friday morning could stop all but the most urgent care in six of Finland's hospital districts.

The strike is set to begin on Friday at 6am. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle
Yle News

Ilta-Sanomat is among the papers reporting that following a Wednesday evening rejection of a proposal of the national labour market mediator, some 25,000 nurses and other healthcare personnel will walk off the job in six hospital districts on Friday at 6am.

The strike has been called by the municipal employee unions Tehy and SuPer, and will affect the hospital districts of Helsinki and Uusimaa, Pirkanmaa, Southwest Finland, North Ostrobothnia, North Savo and Central Finland.

SuPer and Tehy have pledged to provide urgent care services to protect the lives of patients and prevent permanent, serious injury.

According to the employers, however, negotiations between the hospital districts and the employees' organisations have not reached a formal agreement on the terms of continuing urgent care.

Ilta-Sanomat writes that the chief medical officers of the hospital districts affected by the strike also said in a joint statement that the care resources pledged by Tehy and SuPer are insufficient to provide all necessary emergency care. They added that treatment in emergency rooms and inpatient wards, in particular, is under threat.

Juhani Sand, chief physician of Tampere University Hospital, told the paper that the strike will have a serious impact on services.

"In practice, this means that, for example, various cancer surgeries cannot be performed now, at least when the strike starts and the situation is chaotic. The wards are full and there are not enough nurses," Sand said.

Turku University Central Hospital said on Tuesday that it was preparing for a strike by cancelling its non-urgent services and that it was in contact with patients whose appointments would be changed.

The Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS) has also made preparations to postpone all scheduled non-emergency care.

Iltalehti writes that the unions are angry, employers are worried, and both sides are disappointed by the failure to reach an agreement in the dispute over pay and working time adjustments.

The head of the local and national government employers organisation KT, Markku Jalonen, told the paper that employers would have been ready to accept a compromise proposal in the public interest.

The chair of the Union of Health and Social Care Services Tehy, Millariikka Rytkönen, said she was angry about how nursing staff is being treated.

"I am very shocked that this is the thanks they get from society for stretching themselves thin during the pandemic. Indeed more than one person has draped them in hero's capes, most recently the decision-makers before the last local elections. Now, these people don't see the nurses that way," Rytkönen said.

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Support for more defence spending

Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen carries the results of a poll by the Uutissuomalainen news group showing that a majority of voters back an immediate increase in national defence spending.

Three out of four people interviewed for the survey said that they are in favour of increased spending. A clear majority, 60 percent, backed increasing defence spending this year while a further 15 percent would increase spending at a later time.

Only nine percent believe that defence spending should not be increased.

According to Pete Piirainen, a senior visiting researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, the results reflect the changed security policy situation.

"Finnish people believe that this is a country worth defending," Piirainen said.

The poll also found that support for increased spending rises with age.

Some 55 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds would increase spending, compared to 87 percent of those over 70.

"Older generations want to leave a safe country for future generations," was how Piirainen interpreted this finding.

Johanna Rainio-Niemi, assistant professor of political history at the University of Helsinki, says that an ethos of strong national defence is a special feature of Finnish society. For that reason the results of the poll are not surprising. She added that strong defence has been considered important in Finland since the Winter War.

"Investing in defence has been at the heart of our national identity since World War II. There has been a strong political consensus on this, and the current situation is a continuation of that," Rainio-Niemi pointed out.

New reception centres

Tampere's Aamulehti reports that the Finnish Immigration Service is setting up more new reception centres to provide services and accommodations to Ukrainians fleeing the war in their home country.

The new reception centres will be established in Jyväskylä and Salo, with room for 150 arrivals in Jyväskylä and 250 in Salo.

These new centres will begin operations next week at the latest.

For more on what Finland is doing to help the thousands of Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in the country, listen to our most recent All Points North podcast.

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