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Friday’s papers: Intensive care, nurses’ pay, and the happiest country in the world

Papers on Friday looked at how much nurses should be paid.

Sairaanhoitaja käsittelee hengityskonetta Meilahden tornisairaalassa.
Nurses' pay is in the spotlight. Image: Anni Reenpää / Lehtikuva

There’s one main story in the papers on Friday, as has been the case for a few days now.

On Thursday there was some confusion when STT reported that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health had asked healthcare workers not to publish the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care in their local areas.

Ilta-Sanomat reports that in parliament Christian Democrat leader Sari Essayah asked why that was the case, and Minister for Family Affairs and Basic Services Krista Kiuru said the report was the first she’d heard of the prohibition and she would get to the bottom of it.

She also decided to reveal that there are five patients currently in intensive care with coronavirus in Finland, and four of them are in the Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district (HUS).

Subsequently Helsingin Sanomat called HUS to ask for more details, and reports that the youngest patient in intensive care is aged under 40.

"The number of intensive care patients is really small, but they have required treatment everywhere, for example in Italy and France," said HUS Infectious diseases doctor Asko Järvinen. "It’s still individual patients, the majority of those seriously sick are older, over 65."

Järvinen declined to reveal any information about the patients’ gender, whether they have underlying conditions, or their condition in intensive care.

Nurses talk pay

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Finnish nurses are attempting to negotiate a new collective agreement to determine their pay for the next two years.

They are not well-paid by Finnish standards, with medical nurses making a basic salary of 2,445 euros per month before supplements and bonuses.

Iltalehti publishes a column by Lauri Nurmi lambasting the nurses and suggesting that they need to moderate their demands given the coronavirus crisis.

Nurmi says unions want to raise that by ten percent, a big jump from the general increase of three percent agreed in most other sectors.

Employers have offered an exceptional one-year deal with a 1.3 percent rise and new talks planned for 2021.

Nurmi suggests that maybe the 1.3 percent boost is too small, but a one-year deal should be accepted by the Tehy and Super unions with a bigger increase in pay — just nowhere near 10 percent.

He says the nurses' demands are not appropriate for a time of crisis.

"Morally and ethically it is simply wrong," writes Nurmi.

The Tehy union, however, says in a statement on its website that it proposed no such 10 percent pay rise. They say their offer (which was confidential, they emphasise), included a 220 euro a month bonus for nurses during the coronavirus epidemic.

They say that the official estimate is that the epidemic will last for 188 days, meaning that for half a year nurses will face extreme working conditions and should be compensated for that.

They say the total effect of their proposal on the cost of employing nurses would be an increase of around 1.5 percent.

Happiness rankings

All the papers carry news that Finland has retained its spot at the top of the UN’s World Happiness Index.

In second place was Denmark, and Switzerland came third. In last place was Afghanistan.

There has been much debate about the accuracy of such lists, and whether they measure happiness or satisfaction, but it is at least one positive story in the news this week.

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