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Police suspect Turku private hospice firm and city officials of "serious crimes"

The city of Turku and police are both investigating alleged crimes and negligence by care workers and officials.

The Southwestern Finland Police Department is seeking information from anyone whose loved ones may have been affected. Image: Kalle Mäkelä / Yle

The Southwestern Finland Police Department is investigating what it describes as an extensive string of serious crimes. The alleged offences are linked to the deaths of patients being cared for at home by a small private hospice firm. Six Turku city officials are also suspected of negligence.

Over the course of a two-year preliminary investigation, police said they uncovered exceptionally serious neglect and wrongdoing in the firm's home hospice operations in 2011-14.

A nurse who worked for the company is suspected of aggravated negligent homicide, aggravated assault, aggravated embezzlement, aggravated fraud, aggravated forgery and aggravated drug offences. A physician who worked for the firm is also suspected of involvement in these crimes. The nurse has denied any wrongdoing.

"Exceptional crimes"

The firm, Kotisairaala Luotsi, had a four-year contract with the city of Turku that ended in late 2014. The city handed the company responsibility for the care of about 185 patients.

"These suspected crimes are exceptional. The victims were vulnerable people. The care provider has misused a highly-trusted position in a way that endangered their lives and health," said Detective Inspector Mika Paaer of the Southwestern Finland Police Department, who is heading the investigation.

The city of Turku has begun its own internal audit of half a dozen city officials who are suspected of dereliction of duty. Three of them are still on the payroll.

"In the police's view, no actual, concrete supervision was carried out at all," said Paaer.

The nurse is suspected of improperly medicating patients and forging the doctor's signature on prescriptions. There were also irregularities in patient reports and death certificates..

Suspected financial motive

"Based on interrogations, it appears that the motive was financial gain," said Paaer.

By law, only a physician can declare someone to be deceased.

Police believe that 100-120 of patients treated by the company were not properly declared deceased by a doctor. Most of these cases took place during the nurse's work shifts.

Due to privacy laws, police were only able to access the records of three patients, so they have not been in contact with the relatives of any other patients.

However police have asked members of the public who suspect that a loved one may have been involved to contact them, if they want the case to be investigated.