A group of elderly at a table.

Helsinki nursing services’ coronavirus year 2020 – many lessons learnt from virus, danger not over yet

Coronavirus infections are still being treated in the senior centres and service houses, but the epidemic has remained reasonably contained since last spring. In 2020, the novel coronavirus was found in a total of 79 Helsinki nursing homes. This number includes both the City’s own facilities and those of purchased services.

5.9% of the residents were found to be infected with the novel coronavirus in Helsinki’s own senior centres and service houses. The corresponding number of service providers’ nursing homes is 6.3%. The average age of infected residents was 81 years.

Residents are known to have been infected from several different sources. Infection sources have been traced back to visitors, employees, home leaves and different care facilities.

“None of the sources is particularly overrepresented. This indicates that compliance with the protection measures is essential everywhere,” says Sanna Isosomppi, chief physician of the Epidemiologic Operations Unit.

During 2020, a total of 111 persons were killed by the disease caused by the virus in the nursing facilities of the City and of paid service providers. The average age of those who lost their lives to the disease was 84 years.

“People living in nursing homes are generally fragile in terms of their health and belong to a risk group. The mortality rates of people infected with the novel virus are rather similar in the age groups above 70 and above 90,” Isosomppi reports.

The current worry in the nursing services is the new mutation of the virus. Although the vaccination of the residents has already been started, the danger is not over yet.

“The new British coronavirus mutation has already been encountered in Helsinki. It is likely that the mutation spreads easily among the elderly, too. If the virus reaches a nursing home, the risk of infections spreading is high,” says Laura Pikkarainen, medical director of Helsinki City Hospital.

“I would like to emphasise that visitors must still comply with the instructions concerning their visits,” Pikkarainen says.

Helsinki’s total nursing home capacity is 4,400 residents. There are 2,300 residents in the City’s own senior centres and 2,100 in paid service providers’ facilities.

Picture: Katja Tähjä