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Friday's papers: Healthcare criticism, berry picker nightmare, Helsinki history

Papers this Friday look at renewed critical views on the latest steps in government's social service and healthcare reform plans, the appalling conditions where Thai berry pickers were forced to live in Hankasalmi and two farewells to historical pieces of Helsinki.

Värivaloilla valaistu Linnanmäen huvipuisto
Linnanmäki amusement park, lit for the light show in October. Image: Satu Nurmio / Yle

Part of the government's social service and healthcare reforms include plans to overhaul the way the country answers citizens' needs, and news about the topic has appeared again, following a new move on Thursday.

Regional paper Aamulehti is one among many dailies to tackle the most recent criticism about the complex reform plans. Government parties agreed on the newest outline of those plans.

An opposition MP says the plans will not simplify service chains but instead make them more complicated.

The government says that Finns will be able to choose their own personal service centres when the new system is implemented in October, 2020.

According to the new plans, people will be able to choose between either public, private or third-sector health centres. By 2022 all Finnish health centres would include specialist services and staff in at least the areas of internal medicine, geriatrics and eye diseases.

A consultation round for the renewed proposal is next in store, but immediate reactions show that this is unlikely to be the final step in the reform.

"The chains of service will become more complex, integration in the system will become less frequent and costs are in danger of rising," Left Alliance chair Li Andersson is quoted saying in AL.

The issue is not only between the opposition and the reforms-supporting Centre Party. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) had similar criticisms, but concentrated on the service vouchers plan the government hopes to roll out.

"Rural regions will have to maintain the readiness to offer services even if they would mostly be covered by service vouchers; this means that these centres would be at double capacity," says THL chief Juhani Eskola. "This new change is likely to bring more costs, not less."

Deplorable conditions

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reports on a trial about human trafficking at a berry pickers' work camp in Hankasalmi, western Finland. Among other things, alleged atrocious living conditions are being thrashed out in a local district court.

A total of 26 Thai berry pickers are testifying in the case on the state of the work camp that a berry entrepreneur's workers were forced to live in. All 183 of the migrant workers hired by the operation were promised houses for 4-5 people complete with personal toilets, kitchens and bathrooms. However, the reality was allegedly a far cry from this, IS writes and demonstrates via aerial and close-up photos.

The man at the centre of the trial - who allegedly facilitated the working arrangements and travel for the visiting Thai workers - faces some 3 years in prison for human trafficking if he is convicted, the paper writes.

What appear to be health and fire hazards can be seen in the images submitted as evidence. The photos feature makeshift bunk beds installed inside a disused bus, messy and dingy social areas cluttered with car parts and trash and primitive WC facilities.

"It is important now that we get a court precedent on the terms and conditions under which people are allowed to be hired for picking wild berries in Finland," lawyers for the prosecution say in the paper.

Pieces of history

Helsingin Sanomat features pieces on two local institutions that have been a part of capital city Helsinki's identity shutting their doors after decades of service.

One is the Kätilöopisto Maternity Hospital, where more than 300,000 people were born during the almost 60-year history of the facility. Like so many Finnish apartment buildings and schools, the maternity wards in Kumpula are riddled with mould, meaning that nothing may be taken out of the buildings before a thorough disinfection. The Helsinki healthcare district will not be auctioning off or donating any of its equipment for this reason, HS says.

The other long-standing institution whose flame will die out this week is featured in the children's section of the paper. The article details the background and coming end of the Vekkula fun house, one of the main attractions of the Linnanmäki amusement park.

The park will close its doors for the winter season on Sunday, and when they open again next spring the wacky fun house that was Vekkula will no longer be there for its annual 400,000 visitors to roam due to the 61-year-old building being beyond the help of any further renovation.

"We hope we can take children's suggestions to heart when designing the place that will follow Vekkula," says Linnanmäki CEO Pia Adlivan. "We want to build something even more fun than the old one."

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