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Helsinki Expo Centre offers empty facility for coronavirus treatment

However, the convention centre lacks washing-up facilities required for the effort, a physician pointed out.

Messukeskuksen sisäänkäynti sulkemisen jälkeen Helsingissä 12. maaliskuuta.
The Messukeskus centre could be a place to treat hundreds of coronavirus patients. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

The Messukeskus Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre has offered to have the currently unused complex converted into a treatment centre for Covid-19 patients.

The facility's manager, Mika Vakkilainen, said that his organisation approached the government with an offer to make some 50,000 square metres of the expo hall available for hospital services, but have yet to hear back.

"Apparently there has been no need so far," Vakkilainen said. "We would have space for hundreds of patients with enough room for containment. Although that is up to the experts."

The convention centre is the largest of its kind in Finland.

Nowhere to wash up

Medical director of Helsinki's hospital services, Laura Pikkarainen said decisions on any temporary emergency coronavirus centres would be made together with the Helsinki University Hospital (HUS). She also said the expo centre could be a good fit.

"I don't see why a pandemic hospital couldn't be set up inside it. They have heat, electricity and internet connectivity," she said.

Pikkarainen said that large halls and arenas are always potential emergency sites. However, there are not enough WCs in the Messukeskus complex, and suitable washing-up facilities would have to be built up practically from scratch.

Vakkilainen said the centre's 200-odd employees could help with construction.

"We're in codetermination talks right now, but even so, our workers would certainly be up to organising a pandemic hospital. There are electricians, plumbers, builders and all kinds of professions in our ranks."

HUS: Many options

However on Monday, the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) declined to comment to Yle about the suitability of the Messukeskus complex as a temporary care facility.

HUS said that numerous organisations have offered to convert various kinds of real estate into pandemic hospitals. Communications director Niina Kauppinen said experts are currently weighing which of the options to choose in case the need for more hospitals should arise.

On Friday HUS announced that Helsinki's Surgical Hospital would start serving patients with Covid-19.

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