New Response Team To Tackle Emergency Ward’s Issues

Emergency room

The Ministry of Health has founded a new response team for Emergency healthcare services on the advice of the Director of Health. The National Hospital’s Council of Specialists has issued a statement where they declared grave worries over staffing.

According to the Health Ministry’s notice, the Ministry, the Directorate of Health, Icelandic Health Insurance, the regional healthcare institutions, and the Capital Area’s Off-hour Medical Clinic have formed a response team on Emergency Healthcare services in Iceland.

The reason is the grave situation within the emergency services but the notice also states that the reasons for this situation is complicated, but dominating factors are lack of trained healthcare professionals and lack of resources for senior citizens, disabled people and other sensitive demographics.

Among the action plans are coordination of actions and tighter cooperation within healthcare institutions, increased support to at-home nursing in the capital area and increased services of the National Hospital’s emergency ward and larger facilities.

The response team also plans for the National Hospital to reinforce the operations of the Reykjanes peninsula, west Iceland, and South Iceland regional Healthcare institutions by assisting with test results. Processes within the National Hospital will be improved to shorten the time patients spend in the emergency ward and a part of that project is to review treatment procedures in senior care and increase other specialities’ services to patients in the emergency ward.

The notice was issued on the heels of the National Hospital’s Specialist Council expressing their grave worries over the hospital’s staffing issues. The council stated that almost all professions within the hospitals were understaffed and that had a negative impact on the hospital’s services and threatened patient and staff security. Authorities were challenged to support the National hospital to ensure better services.

The head of the National Hospital’s Emergency ward Már Kristjánsson welcomes the new response team and told Vísir that such extensive consultation between healthcare service providers is a novel approach. The situation at the Emergency ward remained serious, however, and the healthcare system as a whole needed extensive review before receiving increased funding.

According to Már, the root of the problem is a lack of planning. Too many people seek out the emergency ward for mild illnesses that can wait, while others are stuck in emergency wards and other wards who should be in rehabilitation or nursing homes. “The lack of organisation within the National hospital leads to people seeking service in the wrong part of the system and that we haven’t been able to get people to the right place,” Már told Vísir.

Improved organisation and management is one of the new response team’s main goals but increased funding for the hospital had also been discussed. Már states that improving the organisation is a priority. “I think we should maximise our output within the current system and then figure out what needs improving in regards to funding.”

Reynisfjara Safety Measures Stalled Due to Bureaucracy, Landowners Claim

Landowners and local authorities have differing viewpoints on what has hindered increased safety measures at Reynisfjara beach, following repeated fatal accidents over the past few years. The spokesperson for a group of landowners by Reynisfjara states that the authorities have hindered improvements, not them, Vísir reports, while the Icelandic Tourist Board’s Director General states that landowners’ opposition has stopped further Reynisfjara safety measures. The popular tourist destination is not owned by the state but by various landowners, but a committee is now considering closing the beach to travellers.

The debate over Reynisfjara safety measures has resurged after a tourist in their seventies died there last Friday, swept away by the powerful sneaker waves characteristic of the tourist attraction beach.

According to Morgunblaðið’s report, a committee established by the Minister of Tourism found that the government had the authority to close places considered dangerous, even against the will of the local landowners. Morgunblaðið also reported the Director-General of the Icelandic Tourist Board statement that while security measures such as warning flags and blinking lights had been suggested, some of the landowners had objected, and their instalment had stalled. The Tourism Minister’s committee is still working on their suggestions for closure, and the result can be expected before the summer break.

Íris Guðnadóttir is a spokesperson for one of the group of landowners that own part of Reynisfjara. She told Vísir: “hearing this in the media, that landowners, that we are against security measures, hurts. These are difficult times. We are very willing to cooperate and talk.” She added that the locals, such as her family, are the ones who face the aftermath of the fatal accidents, so they are well aware of the severity of the matter.

According to Íris, the South Iceland police and landowners had agreed to put up new signs with lights on the beach in 2017. The sign was ready, but the matter stalled because the Ministry of Tourism established a committee. “A risk assessment was to be made, and actions were to be coordinated nationwide. Now, it’s been over three years.”

Since then, there has been no direct action to discourage travellers from getting too close to the water except for a sign put up by the landowners. The government has funded a wave forecast system that is accessible on The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA)’ website but Íris criticises its lack of use elsewhere, calling for action instead of new committees.

When asked about ideas to close Reynisfjara to travellers, at least when the conditions are at their most dangerous, Íris remains unconvinced. Conditions on the beach vary greatly and can change very quickly. “When the conditions are like that, we need to keep people away from the basalt columns. When the sea goes up to the rocks, people shouldn’t be climbing or running across the rocks to get to the cave. We need to keep people safe. But Reynisfjara isn’t dangerous if you sit up on the beach at a safe distance from the water,” stated Íris.