A nurse putting on protective gloves at the intensive care unit of Meilahti Tower Hospital in Helsinki in August 2015. Two Finnish hospital districts on Monday announced they have asked for an injunction on the intensive care strikes announced by the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (Super) and the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy). (Anni Reenpää – Lehtikuva)


THE HOSPITAL DISTRICTS of Kanta-Häme and Southwest Finland on Monday asked the District Court of Helsinki to impose a preliminary injunction on the strikes targeting intensive care services in Hämeenlinna and Turku.

Seppo Ranta, the chief executive of Kanta-Häme Hospital District, told Helsingin Sanomat that an injunction was deemed as the only way to guarantee the safety of patients.

“I’m afraid that this will contribute to further exacerbating the situation,” he acknowledged. “I think it’s tremendously regrettable that the labour market situation has aggravated and ended up where it is. I hope that a solution can be found that can be approved by all stakeholders.”

The Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (Super) and the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals in Finland (Tehy) are to stage a one-day strike at the intensive care unit of Hämeenlinna Central Hospital on Friday. A four-day strike, meanwhile, is to start at the intensive care unit of Turku Central University Hospital on Tuesday, 20 September.

Kanta-Häme Hospital District demanded in its request that each of the unions be issued a one-million-euro fine if they follow through with the strike threat. The amount of the fine was justified, on the one hand, with the resources of the unions and, on the other, with the danger the strike causes to the health and life of patients.

“The amount of the fine must be sufficiently proportionate to the danger the strike causes to the lives of intensive care patients,” the district argued in its appeal to the District Court of Helsinki.

Ranta told Helsingin Sanomat that the district will prepare for the strike by re-directing patients in need of intensive care to hospitals in Helsinki, Tampere and Turku as of Wednesday.

Petri Virolainen, the acting director of Southwest Finland Hospital District, similarly argued to the newspaper that the hospital district was left with no other choice.

“The decision is awfully difficult and regrettable, but we were forced to do this. It’s our duty to see to patient safety and the lives of patients. This is a way for us to try to manage with this duty. We have no other choice,” he said.

Seppo Koskinen, a professor emeritus of labour law at the University of Turku, stated to Helsingin Sanomat that this is the first time an injunction allowed under the code of judicial procedure is utilised in such a way as part of a labour dispute in Finland. The decision to do so, he added, is good in the prevalent situation – especially compared to prohibiting the strike under the patient safety act that was finalised by the government on Monday.

He believes prohibiting the strikes under the act rather than under a court ruling could further aggravate the labour market dispute.

“That’s why I’d be in favour of settling the issue at an injunction hearing in court,” he said.

Koskinen viewed that the District Court of Helsinki should be able to issue an interlocutory judgement to prohibit the unions from launching the strike under the threat of fine before Friday. The court could then discuss in more detail whether the strike causes such a grave danger to patient health that it can be prohibited.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT