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Tuesday's papers: Third of forest fires could be avoided, SS report criticism and doctor shortages

Finland's press examines disregard for forest fire warnings, heated feedback to a study, and long lines for health care.

Metsäpaloista syntyvää savua Ratasvaaran alueella Raja-Joosepissa 21. heinäkuuta
Smoke from a fire in Lapland last summer. Image: Lapin rajavartiosto

Kuopio-based newspaper Savon Sanomat carries news that one-third of all forest fires in Finland last year would have been avoided, had people minded issued forest fire warnings and not started fires near wooded areas.

This is the conclusion of a nationwide report from the Emergency Services Academy of Finland that analysed each of last year's rescue unit emergency calls.

So far this year, there have been 1,750 forest fires in Finland, close to half of the number that were reported last summer when conditions were very dry and warm. In 2018, fires scorched more square kilometers in Finland than they had since 2006.

The paper outlines that the report found that most forest fires originated from campfires or grills. Firefighters interviewed in the story advise people to not start fires at all when warnings have been issued, and to douse all open fires with water, instead of allowing them to die out on their own.

Controversy over Finnish complicity in Nazi atrocities

The tabloid Iltalehti covers heated tempers over a National Archives investigation into Finnish soldiers fighting for the Nazis during World War II. Two military colonels published an article in the periodical Suomen Kuvalehti in June, saying that the study released earlier this year had labelled 1,400 SS men as war criminals on flimsy evidence, smearing Finland's international image.

The director of the National Archives, Jussi Nuorteva, responds to the criticism in IL, saying that the two men presented an "uncommonly biased" critique and "painted a patchy and peculiar picture" of the study.

"It is important that the Finnish state dares to explore difficult questions from its history, while taking international context into account," he tells IL.

Based on the content of 76 Finnish soldiers' war-year diaries, the National Archives study concluded that the SS volunteers from Finland were very likely to have been aware and partly involved in the killing of Jews, civilians and prisoners of war in German ranks in Eastern Europe in 1941-43, the paper writes.

Call Medical helpline before seeking treatment

And the country's most widely-read newspaper Helsingin Sanomat carries a report on doctor shortages in the capital city area. There are currently 50 physician vacancies in Helsinki's health centres alone.

Emergency departments are the worst hit by the deficit, as no amount of money seems to attract new talent to the taxing jobs. The Helsinki University Hospital network HUS estimates that about 300,000 patients visit its emergency clinics at the Haartman, Jorvi, Malmi and Peijas hospitals each year. One-fifth of these people – who wait in line an average of four hours at the Haartman location to see a health care professional, for example – are actually in the wrong place, the paper writes. They should be turning to their local health centre or a specialized clinic instead.

HUS operative director Maaret Castrén recently contributed an opinion piece to HS, saying that doctor shortages and long lines at emergency clinics have reached the point in the capital city area that they are now endangering patient safety.

"Patients that can't be treated elsewhere should not be pushed onto the emergency departments. This is what is happening because the doors are always open," she tells the paper.

Castrén recommends that people with acute medical issues first call the toll-free medical helpline at 116 117, before visiting an emergency clinic. Medical professionals answer the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can instruct patients to the correct care facility.

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