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Tuesday's papers: Patient confidentiality, same-sex weddings, businesses seeking new owners

The top domestic item in today's Helsingin Sanomat is a report that the Interior Ministry aims to rush legislation expanding police access to sensitive medical records.

Lääkäri kirjoittaa tietokoneella.
Image: Eeva Kuivas / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat reports that the Ministry of the Interior has been quietly preparing changes to patient confidentiality laws that it wants to see rushed through parliament. The bill is expected to come before the house sometime next month.

If approved, the changes would allow patient records to be turned over to police to be used in investigations.

In addition, the Interior Ministry wants doctors to pass along information about patients on their own initiative if they believe that by doing so they may prevent serious crime.

The chief administrative physician of the Helsinki University Hospital, Lasse Lehtonen, told the paper that he is concerned that if the records of mental health patients are more likely to be turned over to the police, then patients will not seek care.

A number of other medical professionals echoed those concerns, saying that this legislation would undermine the trust essential to the functioning of the healthcare system.

"I'm quite shocked by this proposal. It shows no understanding of how the healthcare system works or what the role of a doctor is," Finnish Medical Association CEO Kati Myllymäki told the paper.

Lehtonen pointed out that patient records are kept not for police use, but for use in patient care.

Flu season coming

While on medical topics, Tampere's Aamulehti notes that although the flu season has yet to really start, healthcare centres are seeing a lot of patients who have been hit by a virus that causes coughing, runny noses and a high fever lasting about a week. Many of the patients are children.

Satu-Liisa Pauniaho of the Tampere University Hospital's emergency care unit says that even though this is not strain of influenza, if such symptoms last several days, it is a good idea to see a doctor.

In a separate item, Aamulehti reports that it is hoped that the flu vaccine being used this year is more effective than the one last flu season. This year's vaccine is intended to provide protection against four strains. Also, more people are entitled to free flu vaccinations this year, including all children under the age of 6.

Same-sex weddings in Helsinki

Parliament passed a gender-neutral marriage law in 2015 which came into force in 2017.

While Finland's largest religious denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, adheres to the doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, Lutheran priests are legally entitled, but not required, to perform same-sex marriages.

However,each diocese has a large degree of independence in how to deal with the issue.

The newsstand tabloid Iltalehti is among the paper that reports on a Monday evening decision by the council of Helsinki's Lutheran Cathedral parish stating that all of its facilities are open for the use of all parishioners - in effect blessing the use of the Cathedral for same-sex weddings.

The decision takes effect as of today, Tuesday.

In the capital, the Lutheran parishes of Haaga, Herttoniemi, Kallio, Malmi, Munkkiniemi, Pakila, Paavali, and Töölö all permit same-sex couples to reserve their churches for wedding ceremonies.

New owners needed

Turun Sanomat carries a syndicated Lännen Media report on a new survey showing that close to 50,000 companies will need new owners within the next decade.

The study indicates that 46 percent of business owners over the age of 55 intend to sell their companies. Three-quarters of those who have already sold out say that they are pleased with the deals they made.

Only just less than a quarter of business where the main owner retires are passed down to a younger generation. Slightly more than 20 percent of 55 year-olds running their own businesses believe that they will shut down when they retire.

Interviewed for the article, Vice Rector Elina Varamäki of the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences urged anyone thinking of going into business to first take a look at what established companies are available to be purchased.

Free meals for "The Gourmet"

A 49 year-old man in Helsinki, known in restaurant circles as "The Gourmet", will now be treated to almost 200 free meals - the catch being that they will all be served behind bars.

The freesheet Metro today reports that an appeal court has confirmed a 5-month, 15-day prison sentence handed down to the man for his repeated practice of ordering food and drink in restaurants and refusing to pay the bill.

Convicted and fined on seven previous occasions, a frequent client at fine dining establishments in Helsinki and other parts of the country, the man repeatedly ate his fill, refused to pay, and would sit contentedly waiting for the police to arrive.

Even though he was well-known by reputation, during his last round of "free" meals, he managed to eat and ignore the tab at eight restaurants in the capital before being brought up on charges. At the time, he was on probation as a result of his previous spree.

In addition to time in jail, the well-fed fraudster was ordered to pay most of his 700 euros in outstanding restaurant bills.

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