“Of the 30 to 70 guests at a private function, one third to a half might fall ill, and some infected at such functions died. Outbreaks at care homes and the numerous deaths of their aged residents shocked Finnish society. I was reminded of the tsunami of 2004,” says Eeva Ruotsalainen, Deputy Chief Physician of HUS, reflecting on the past year.
There is no question about what the main topic of the year 2020 was. The coronavirus pandemic affected the lives of absolutely everyone. Eeva Ruotsalainen and many other physicians found themselves working almost around the clock.
The situation was particularly dire in early spring, because treatments for the disease were not yet known.
“We have only gradually come to understand the profile of the disease caused by the virus and to know which population groups are likely to fall seriously ill. While there were so many unanswered questions, patient care was difficult; people were falling seriously ill, but we didn’t know how to care for them.”
”It is everyone’s duty to hang in there”
Eeva Ruotsalainen reports being surprised at how quickly the coronavirus infection began to spread and escalated into a pandemic. The infection spread much more effectively than seasonal flu.
“Infections spreading at various parties or events led to tragic consequences. Then as now, major infection chains originate at gatherings of people. Of the 30 to 70 guests at a private function, one third to one half might fall ill, and some infected at such functions died. I was reminded of the tragedies caused by the tsunami of 2004. We also need to be able to prevent outbreaks at care homes and the numerous cases of illness and death among their elderly residents,” says Ruotsalainen.
With the Uusimaa lockdown, the situation was gradually brought under control. Indeed, Ruotsalainen considers that the activation of the Emergency Powers Act was highly significant for controlling the pandemic.
“Even with the lockdown, it took weeks before the demands on hospital care began to decrease. In the summer, there were still major restrictions in place concerning gatherings, and people were away from workplaces, schools and daycare centers. Because of this, the summer was quieter in respect of the coronavirus. It wasn’t until towards the end of the summer that we began to relax the restrictions,” Ruotsalainen notes.
Finland nevertheless coped with the year of the coronavirus somewhat better than the rest of Europe.
“It must be said, though, that Europe as a whole has not managed to curb the pandemic. The response to the second wave in particular was an outright failure,” says Ruotsalainen.
“Now we have vaccines, but unfortunately we also have new variants of the virus. I believe that it is everyone’s duty to just hang in there and be patient, because it will take months to carry out the vaccinations. To quote the director of the WHO: opening, shutting down and reopening communities too quickly is a bad strategy.”
Bringing top-notch professionals together
Eeva Ruotsalainen has had no trouble in filling her days in recent months, because she has her hands full with combating the pandemic.
“I’ve always liked my job – it’s interesting and motivating. I like to do things as well as I can, whether on the job or in my free time.”
There is something good in everything, even the coronavirus pandemic.
“During the past year, I’ve met people at HUS whom I would never have come across if it hadn’t been for these exceptional circumstances. They are Professionals with a capital P, people who seriously want to get things sorted. It’s been incredibly wonderful to be able to work with them.”