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HUS boss compares nurses' strike to war in Ukraine

The strike, which began on Friday morning, is already affecting emergency care in some hospital districts.

Nurses gathered for a demonstration at Meilahti Campus in Helsinki on Friday morning. Image: Benjamin Suomela / Yle

Chief Medical Officer of the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) Markku Mäkijärvi raised eyebrows on Thursday when he compared the ongoing nurses' strike in Finland to the Ukraine war.

"I believe that the war in Ukraine can be compared to this situation," Mäkijärvi stated, commenting on the walkout, which began on Friday morning, in a Swedish-language interview with Svenska Yle.

Following the interviewer's observation that the statement was a strongly worded one, the HUS boss responded, "Yes, but it's true."

Mäkijärvi also urged the public to lead a healthier lifestyle, adding "It's possible that if something happens, we may not be able to help. It is impossible to treat all patients in such a situation."

The strike, organised by municipal employee unions Tehy and SuPer, includes around 25,000 healthcare personnel and affects six hospital districts.

Chief Medical Officer of HUS Markku Mäkijärvi Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Hospital districts feeling the effects of the strike

HUS has said that the industrial action has already affected emergency care in the district, as some operations have had to be postponed. Tampere University Hospital has also been forced to delay emergency care due to the strike.

While the unions have negotiated with management to provide legally mandated skeleton staffing to cover emergency care, some hospital district officials say that the staffing levels are inadequate.

On Thursday afternoon, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health announced that it was preparing legislation to ensure sufficient emergency care.

The new laws would enable management to order striking nurses to do urgent work when required to ensure patient safety.

The ministry will decide whether to ask the government to submit the bill to Parliament on Friday. It would take at least a week for the law to take effect.

According to Tehy, patient safety is in danger even in normal circumstances, as low salaries in the sector have resulted in a shortage of nurses.

If the negotiating parties do not reach an agreement by mid-April, the strike will be extended to include thirteen hospital districts.