Jan Vapaavuori (NCP), the Mayor of Helsinki, says over a million nose and mouth masks are needed every week by social and health care professionals in the Finnish capital. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE RECENT OPENING of the national security of supply reserves has not mollified concerns about the availability of protective equipment for social and health care professionals in Finland, writes Helsingin Sanomat.

“The National Emergency Supply Agency will provide us with a small quantity of stuff, which won’t last long,” said Marina Erhola, the CEO of Päijät-Häme Joint Authority for Health and Wellbeing.

Erhola on Tuesday stated to the newspaper that a shortage of equipment is already preventing employees from following the instructions of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The Federation of Welfare Industries (Hali), the representative of private social and health care providers, has similarly estimated that it is no longer realistically possible for the service providers to comply with the instructions on protection. The South Savo Social and Health Care Authority (Essote), meanwhile, has reported that it has all but suspended oral health care services due to the need for protective equipment.

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With THL estimating that the coronavirus pandemic will drag on for months, will there be enough protective equipment, Lasse Ilkka, a senior specialist at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health?

“I can’t say yes definitely,” he replied to Helsingin Sanomat.

“If all procurements go according to plan, there won’t be an equipment shortage. But the procurements are uncertain. We’d be faced with a shortage if he hadn’t made additional procurements and started our own production. The security of supply reserves alone don’t have enough protective equipment for the epidemic.”

Ilkka confirmed that the use of protective equipment has by far exceeded the rate at which the government has been able to bring new equipment to Finland. Although no detailed data on the consumption is yet available, he said the usage can be approximated at millions of nose and mouth masks and a smaller number of respirators a week.

“The numbers will depend on how the disease progresses, but a few million will be used [weekly] in the whole country,” he stated to Helsingin Sanomat.

Jan Vapaavuori (NCP), the Mayor of Helsinki, expressed his frustration with the debate, highlighting that the capital alone requires more than a million nose and mouth masks every week.

“Helsinki has repeatedly approached the state to note that it is extremely concerned about the sufficiency of protective equipment. I understand that it isn’t an easy issue, but I don’t why we’re not taken seriously,” he bemoaned on Twitter.

“Aside from small-scale visor production, I’m also very disappointed with the ability of Finnish industries to take the need to produce protective equipment domestically seriously, even though we’ve been talking about it already for many weeks,” he added.

Vapaavuori said the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health should understand what is realistic and what is not when issuing its instructions: “You shouldn’t give instructions on protective equipment that can’t be followed and shift the blame for the failure to follow them to others.”

Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä on Tuesday said Finland has the readiness to commence “large-scale production” of protective equipment to meet the needs of social and health care professionals, revealing that at least two domestic companies are preparing to commence production.

The National Emergency Supply Agency (HVK) announced yesterday it has taken delivery of the first batch of protective equipment from China. The batch included roughly two million surgical masks and 230,000 respirators, meaning it is not expected to last a single week, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT