Doctors in Iceland have had enough. They are now striking for the second week in a row, though admittedly there are always some doctors working to serve urgent cases and inpatients. In a pre-arranged plan, doctors in certain fields of medicine in certain areas of the country strike for 48 hours at a time. If nothing is done, this situation will continue until early December.
They are not just striking over pay, however – although, considering their length of training and hours worked, they are paid very low rates. They also want more money put into the health service so that new equipment can be bought and doctors do not have to work in unhealthy conditions. Parts of Landspitali, the main hospital in Iceland, have been closed due to mildew and now there is a plague of Pharaoh ants in the hospital kitchen. Young doctors are not returning after training abroad due to low pay and lack of equipment with which to perform the techniques and operations that they have learned. In addition, oncologists have complained that some new drugs are not available in Iceland.
A new hospital is supposed to be in the pipeline which will improve conditions for both doctors and patients, and allow certain equipment to be bought that is not currently possible as it is physically impossible to get the equipment into the hospital. But that is always a promise, nothing more.
UPDATE: The doctor’s strike has finished for this year, but a new round of actions will start in January. The actions will be escalated in the next round, when each set of doctors will strike for four days at a time rather than two.
LATEST NEWS: Although there were frequent talks, nothing happened over the Christmas period and so the strike began again at midnight on Monday morning, this time in an escalated form. BUT in the early hours of this morning, they reached an agreement and the strike has been called off, at least for the time being. Individual doctors still have to agree the new agreement, which it is expected they’ll do next week.
Many doctors have given in their notice over the last month or so. They say they’ll wait to see the new contract before deciding whether to withdraw their resignations.
The surgeons have also just reached an agreement (they were due to start striking next week).
As an aside, a news item on doctors in Norway a few days ago indicated that Norwegian hospitals are facing similar staffing problems to the Icelandic ones and many young doctors in northern Norway are going elsewhere in Scandinavia to work. So the staffing problem isn’t restricted to Iceland.