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Thursday's papers: Åland security debate, nurse pay gap and walk-in vaccinations

Historians and researchers are worried about the security status of Åland, which has strategic importance due to its location.

The Swedish-speaking, autonomous region of Åland is demilitarised.

With Finland's role in ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine becoming a point of focus, several experts have turned their attention to the autonomous island region of Åland, a Swedish-speaking maritime province of Finland.

Göran Djupsund, Professor Emeritus of political science, told (siirryt toiseen palveluun) Helsingin Sanomat that given Russia's recent actions, the strategic importance of the island province, which is centrally located along several key shipping routes in the Baltic Sea, warrants discussions about its security.

Last week, Sweden stepped up its military presence on the neighbouring island of Gotland in response to the appearance of Russian warships in the Baltic Sea.

While Åland is demilitarised, which means that there can be no military force on the island, Djupsund points out that historic treaties dictate that it must be protected by Finland in case of a security threat.

Ilta-Sanomat reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that as per a decades-old treaty with the Soviet Union, disarmament and neutrality in the Swedish-speaking region is still officially monitored by Russia.

A Russian consulate, which was established to monitor the implementation of the treaty after the Winter War, is still located on the island.

In an interview (siirryt toiseen palveluun) with Reuters on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin stated that it was "very unlikely" that Finland would join Nato anytime soon.

She stressed; however, that the country would stand with the US and its European allies and would impose sanctions on Russia if it invaded Ukraine.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö discussed the situation with U.S. President Joe Biden via a telephone call on Tuesday.

Same job, different salary for nurses

Finnish tabloid Iltalehti explores (siirryt toiseen palveluun) a potential problem with Helsinki's upcoming Covid-19 reserve hospital. The institution could have nurses who perform the same tasks but work for different employers, which means there could be huge disparities in their salaries.

Earlier this month, the City of Helsinki announced that given the deteriorating coronavirus situation, it would open a reserve hospital in the Herttoniemi district to create 50 extra hospital beds.

Recruitments for the hospital have begun, but include advertisements from three different employers. The City of Helsinki has offered nurses a salary of 2,658.42 per month, in addition to a 5 percent fixed-term bonus, to work at the Herttoniemi hospital, while HUS has promised 2,726.78 per month for the same post.

Meanwhile, private company MedVida is proposing a salary of over 4,000 euros per month for a full-time nurse at the same hospital. All advertisements detail the same tasks and requirements.

Representatives from the Union of Health and Social Care Services (Tehy) have said that in practice, a private company can offer a different salary for the same job due to differences in collective agreements in the public and private sector.

The Union warns that the pay gaps are an ethical issue and will likely affect nurses' morale, also pointing out that the salaries offered by HUS and the City of Helsinki do not reflect the urgency of the ongoing shortage of healthcare staff.

Walk-ins lead to new vaccination record in Tampere

Walk-in sites have significantly increased vaccination coverage in some parts of Finland, according to a report (siirryt toiseen palveluun) by Aamulehti.

In the Pirkanmaa region, the municipalities of Ylöjärvi and Lempäälä saw an uptick in vaccination rates following the introduction of walk-in sites, while Tampere hit a new record last week.

Birgit Aikio, Nursing Manager at the City of Tampere, revealed that the city administered 20,551 vaccines last week, an all-time high. Officials expect the figure to increase in coming weeks.

Aikio attributes the rise in vaccination rates to walk-in vaccination points, as well as a vaccination bus which has been travelling across the region since the end of last year.