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Monday's papers: Thomas Cook bankruptcy, elder opioid prescriptions, minimum wage weighed

Thomas Cook goes under, elderly patients use far more oxycodone than before and a law-based minimum wage proposition is coolly met.

Thomas Cookin lentokone.
Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia will no longer operate flights, and thousands are stranded. Image: Rex Features / AOP

Every Finnish newspaper this Monday carried the story of tour operator Thomas Cook's insolvency, which has lead to hundreds of thousands of travellers being stranded at international destinations as outgoing flights have been grounded.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that Nordic travel agent Tjäreborg has some 525 travellers waiting in vain for their trips. The company said that Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia, the liquidated group's own carrier, would not be operating any of its flights on Monday.

HS wrote early the same morning that passengers were notified only minutes before a scheduled Tjäreborg flight to Larnaca, Cyprus was cancelled.

Ilta-Sanomat also went big on the story, including a live stream from an airport in Mallorca, while Iltalehti and others sent reporters to interview some of the disappointed holidaymakers at Helsinki Airport.

HS wrote that travellers stuck abroad who have paid for return trips in advance should contact a travel guide, the Finnish consulate or the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, which is charged with organising return trips in cases of tour operator insolvency.

Spike in opioid use among elderly patients

Meanwhile tabloid Ilta-Sanomat runs an article on the worries of health care professionals, who are saying that the deadly crisis in opioid over-prescription and abuse that began in the United States may be spreading to Finland. In 2017 more than 473,000 patients in Finland received opioid-based treatment.

Recent figures cited by IS from investigative magazine Long Play show that over 2008-2018, doctors prescribed the opium-based pain killer oxycodone to some 92,000 patients aged 75 and over. The figure has quadrupled in one decade, IS wrote, and the use of all opioid medications including less potent products such as codeine is on an upward trend.

Kaarlo Simojoki, medical director for the A-Clinic substance abuse service provider, said in the tabloid that while Finland may not see the same dire crisis as in the US, the situation may well worsen here as well.

"One reason for the prevalence of opioids in Finland is that pension-age patients may have been prescribed a certain opioid medication correctly in the past, but the treatment has not been discontinued after the critical need subsided. This can happen to adult patients of all ages, even in occupational health services," Simojoki said.

Professor of sociopharmacology Marja Airaksinen from the University of Helsinki said the root of the problem is systemic.

"We can avert the kind of fate that the United States has seen by regularly inspecting each and every patient's pharmaceutical needs. Doctors may easily prescribe new medications on top of existing ones, without checking whether the previous pills are even needed anymore," Airaksinen said in IS.

Local bargaining over minimum wage

Meanwhile experts responded on Monday to an interview with chair Mikael Pentikäinen of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises. Pentikäinen told news group Lännen Media on Sunday that Finland should investigate the possibility of including a minimum legal wage limit in the law. Professionals in business and academics alike have responded with scepticism.

"A legal minimum wage would become a political game piece, and the law is too stiff a moderator for wage policy," said chair Jarkko Eloranta from the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) in daily Turun Sanomat. "The minimum could easily become the maximum in some places, making upward mobility impossible."

Pentikäinen said on Sunday that law-based minimum wages would only benefit those employees who work outside of collective bargaining agreements, which TS wrote means about 200,000 people. However, the SAK and the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (STTK) said Finland's Employment Contracts Act guarantees "reasonable and regular" pay for people outside of contracts.

"Really low wages are usually due to some situation where the employer has broken the law," said STTK's Katarina Murto.

Experts interviewed for the TS article concur that a minimum wage system is best for countries without a tradition of collective bargaining. Finland has traditionally agreed sector-based pay deals at a national level through employers' and employees' representatives.

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