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Thursday’s papers: Backseat births, tyre-maker scandal fallout and another Microsoft backlash

Latest figures suggest the numbers of women giving birth on the way to the hospital has risen for a fifth year in a row, reports Helsingin Sanomat, but could immigration be the reason? Elsewhere, customers of product test manipulator Nokian Tyres have begun demanding compensation, and there’s anger among computer users whose machines have frozen when they try to update Microsoft Windows 10.

Äiti antaa suukon lapselle.
Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Six-month-old baby Mona makes the front page of Helsingin Sanomat this morning, even though she herself doesn’t yet know the story of how she was born - on the backseat of a Ford Mondeo on the way to Helsinki’s Kätilöopisto maternity hospital.

Mona’s mother, Reetta, had called the hospital when her contractions were underway but was told to wait. “The midwife said I didn’t sound like I was in labour,” she says, adding that even when she called back later after her water broke "the midwife asked if I couldn’t manage to be at home a bit longer.”

Preliminary statistics suggest the number of unplanned outside-hospital births went up again last year, Hesari says, continuing the trend of the last five years. At the same time the government has been closing maternity units where fewer than 1,000 babies are born every year, claiming safety reasons, meaning journey times to the labour ward have increased.

The highest rate of births outside hospital take place in Helsinki where, despite the 40-50 percent increase in five years, the number is still 75 births in the last two years, 16 of which happened en route to hospital. Speaking to the paper, maternity ward chief Mika Nuutila strongly denies that crowded maternity wards are leading to more mothers being told over the phone to wait at home.

“I’ve never heard of a mother being told ‘don’t come’. We may have advised that it would be better to wait a bit longer. But we always say that if you feel like you have to come in, then do.” At most, Nuutila says, crowding on the ward could mean someone is sent to another hospital in Helsinki. but he insists that hospitals do not want mothers to stay at home for as long as possible before coming to the ward.

Instead, Nuutila explains the rise by saying that reasons linked to “cultural background” are an important factor, given that over a third of births outside hospital have been mothers of foreign background. It’s not clear whether this refers to these parents making their own decisions not to come in, or communication problems with ward staff, or other reasons.

As for mother Reetta and baby Mona, both are doing fine - as is the family Mondeo. “When we took it to the car wash, the workers said they’d also cleaned out another car in which a baby had been born on a motorway slip road.”

Wheels of justice

The front page of Aamulehti carries the latest on the fall-out from Nokian Tyres’ admission that the firm manipulated test results for years in an attempt to improve the image of its products. The paper reports that so far 302 customers, 12 of which are companies, have joined the class action against the firm, demanding compensation of 30 percent of the original sale price.

According to law firm Tuure Legal, which is coordinating the claims, the tyre maker has refused to accept the action as a class suit, and is instead saying it will consider the claims case-by-case.

The total amount of compensation sought is just under 70,000 euros - a considerably smaller sum, the paper notes, than the bill for hundreds of thousands in damages that some predicted the cheating scandal would cost Nokian Tyres.

Negotiations for an out-of-court settlement are ongoing, but Nokian Tyres’ lawyer tells the paper that every claim the firm has looked at so far has been rejected as groundless. “The products are as they should have been, customers knew exactly what they were buying,” he says - an argument that doesn’t fly with the lawyer for the customers. “How could customers have known, when the firm’s admitted manipulating the test results?” he asks.

If Nokia don’t agree to settle out of court, the claimants will submit their case to the prosecutor, the solicitor says.

Broken windows

After Microsoft announced a further 1,350 job losses in Finland last month, feelings in the country towards the software giant are unlikely to be particularly positive. And business daily Taloussanomat reports that's also the case with Espoo resident Oili Hvitfelt, who claims she was left facing a 277-euro repair bill after a Windows 10 update on her computer went wrong.

The 69 year old went to bed on Friday leaving her computer to automatically update the new Microsoft operating system. In the morning she discovered the three-year-old computer was frozen, with only the mobile data indicator light occasionally flashing. On taking it back to the shop to be looked at, she was told the machine needed a new hard disk drive, which would cost 200 euros, along with the cost of removing the update from the machine. Plus she faces a 76-euro charge for the inspection.

Microsoft said it’s unlikely that the Windows 10 update would have damaged the machine’s hard drive. But it’s not the first time this week that the company has encountered customer dissatisfaction with its latest software update. On Tuesday the same paper reported that photographer Leena Aro was so angry that the update had caused her computer to freeze that she marched to the company’s head office and refused to leave until an expert had fixed it.

A Microsoft spokesman said they advise customers to call the free helpline instead. “That way they get more expert advice than from our reception desk,” he said.

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