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Friday's papers: Reform troubles, dangerous level crossings and February heat wave

The possible effects of failing to pass health and social reforms, hazardous level crossings are still in use and a 60-year-high in February temperatures.

Aurinkoinen kevättalvinen näkymä Mustasaaresta.
Image: Matti Hietala

Daily Helsingin Sanomat writes about the difficulties that the government’s flagship reforms on social and health care services (sote) are facing and the possible effects that a failure to pass the laws may cause.

The Constitutional Law Committee is dealing with the reforms now, but time is running out, HS writes, as the current parliamentary term will end in four weeks. It is therefore increasingly looking like the laws will not passed during this government and that the reform will “fall forward.” That means that the processes which have already been initiated at regional level to introduce sote will continue even without a wholesale law reform, HS writes.

While on the administrative side municipalities may change the way they provide services, the visible effects on patients and clients are likely to remain minor.

Tarja Myllärinen from the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities says municipalities are likely to cooperate more. “All regions have discussed the different options, even though they may not have been very vocal about it.”

Regardless of what happens to sote, the peripheral regions of Finland will suffer as the population ages while big cities will survive, says Markus Sovala from Uusimaa Regional Council. “When the money runs out, it will be difficult to make decisions.”

Nonetheless, any disorder that may result from the postponement of sote will mostly impact administration. “This is not Naples where rubbish piles up on the streets for half a year,” Sovala adds.

Risky level crossings

Meanwhile, some level crossings in Finland are so dangerous that passing over them is like playing Russian roulette, according to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat. Despite a fatal crash in Raseborg in 2017, there are multiple level crossings still in use where visibility is very poor but safety has not been improved, according to the paper. One of them is the Simonen crossing near Seinäjoki in Western Finland.

“Even if they do everything right, people venturing to these crossings can't be enitrely sure they aren't going to be hit by a train. And they don't even know they are playing with their lives,” says Hannamari Helke from the Safety Investigation Authority.

Dangerous crossings are a remnant from the past, when trains were slower and the conductors had more time to react to drivers, IS writes. As speed limits for trains have risen, so too have the problems at the crossings.

“It’s not legal to build level crossings like this anymore, but for some reason, Finnish law does not require the existing ones to be fixed,” Helke told the paper.

According to her, people in Finland are used to society taking care of safety, which makes these risky crossings even more dangerous.

“Closing the crossings would mean that drivers have to take a detour. But that's better than dying," Helke adds.

Spring's on its way

Tabloid Iltalehti reports that Finland is experiencing a February heat wave. On Thursday night, temperature in Rauma, southwestern Finland, climbed to 8.4 degrees – a 60-year record for this time of the year.

Weather for the weekend is looking to be balmy, with plenty of sunshine across the country and temperatures between four and seven degrees in southern and central Finland. The tip of Lapland may see some snowfall though, IL’s weather map shows.

For comparison’s sake, IL reports that temperature in Enontekiö, Lapland, hovered around eight degrees at midsummer last year.

Nevertheless, IL doubts that bars and restaurants in Rauma are ready to open their outdoor patios just yet.

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