Alcohol Consumption On the Rise Among Icelanders

The consumption of alcohol among Icelanders has increased significantly and cases of cirrhosis are on the rise, Dr. Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir, the Medical Director of SÁÁ, has stated in an interview. Dr. Valgerður encourages individuals to seek treatment before problems get out of hand.

A new year, a new opportunity

In an interview with Vísir today, Dr. Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir, the Medical Director of SÁÁ (National Centre of Addiction Medicine), stated that many people see the new year as an opportunity to deal with addiction-related issues. About 600 people are currently on a waiting list for treatment at SÁÁ, which is similar to the past few months.

Valgerður noted, however, that most people don’t have to wait that long for admission. Valgerður added that many people were hesitant to seek help because they were unsure that their problems were “big enough.” According to Valgerðar, however, the right time to seek help is when the thought occurs that there might be a problem.

Read More: In Harm’s Way: Harm Reduction in the Age of Opioids

“The most numerous group of people that needs help is precisely that group of people who, because of their addiction, are about to miss out: whether on school, work, or connections with their family. It’s best to intervene while they’re still functional.”

A growing problem

Although patients at SÁÁ’s Vogur detox and rehabilitation centre are seeking help for various kinds of addiction-related issues, alcohol abuse remains, by far, the most common. Dr. Valgerður observed that alcohol consumption was “constantly increasing” and that, generally speaking, Icelanders “tend to drink a lot.”

“It has huge consequences. Hepatologists, for example, have observed that cirrhosis of the liver has greatly increased in Iceland. And we see that many people are in poor health from heavy alcohol consumption.”

Valgerður repeated her point about people not waiting too long to seek help: “I’d like to encourage people, who’ve been considering it for some time, to seize the opportunity now, during the beginning of 2023. Address the issues. We welcome everyone who comes to us.”

ICU Beset by Strep Throat, Other Respiratory Infections

landspítali hospital

A wave of serious strep throat infections combined with other respiratory infections has brought the intensive care unit to a breaking point, RÚV reports. The ICU has not seen as many inpatients since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Headed towards a state of emergency

There are as many patients at the National University Hospital’s intensive care unit today as there were during the pandemic, RÚV reports. A senior physician told the National Broadcaster that the ICU was headed for a state of an emergency; respiratory infections, such as strep throat (an infection of the upper respiratory tract, caused a bacterium known as Streptococcus pyogenes), have run rampant recently.

As of yesterday, 19 patients were staying in the intensive care unit (22 were staying in the ICU at its peak last weekend). There are only fourteen beds. The ICU has not seen such numbers for a long time.

“Not since the first wave of COVID-19,” Kári Hreinsson, Manager of Surgery, Anaesthesia, and Intensive Care Services at Landspítalan Hospital, told RÚV yesterday. “It’s been close in the past, with nearly 20 patients in total, but we’ve not exceeded these numbers.” He emphasised that none of this would have been possible were it not for the diligence and hard work of the staff.

Kári points out that a state of emergency was declared when 27 people were admitted to the intensive care unit with COVID-19. He says that it has been discussed whether a state of emergency needs to be declared, but the situation has not yet become that bad.

“This is not something that passes in two or three days, this respiratory infection epidemic that has been going on for quite some time and we don’t quite see it coming to an end yet.”

A series of serious streptococcal infections, in combination with the other respiratory infections that seem to be spreading throughout society, has added insult to injury.

“It makes for a much more dangerous disease and more difficult to treat,” Kári stated.

When there are not enough beds, intensive care patients are transferred to the post-surgical care unit (vöknunardeild). When asked if this affected other patients or elective surgeries, Kári stated that this was not the case yet. “But it’s something that could happen in the next few days.”

FME Believes Íslandsbanki Broke the Law During March Sale

íslandsbanki sale iceland reykjavík

Íslandsbanki has started a conciliation process with the Central Bank’s Financial Supervisory Authority due to the bank’s possible violations of the law, RÚV reports. The bank’s employees were among the buyers in a closed bidding arrangement last March when the government sold a 22.5% stake in the bank.

Preliminary findings “taken seriously”

The Central Bank’s Financial Supervisory Authority (FME) believes that Íslandsbanki may have violated the provisions of laws and regulations, regarding the bank and its operations, during the sale of the government’s 22.5% stake in the bank last March, RÚV reports. This is the result of a preliminary assessment that Íslandsbanki has received.

The preliminary assessment states that the Financial Supervisory Authority has the authority to impose administrative fines for the violations. The agency is also authorised to conclude cases through a settlement in the event that the offender admits to the offences and submits to sanctions.

Íslandsbanki’s announcement to the Icelandic Stock Exchange states that a conciliation process has begun and that the bank’s management takes FME’s initial assessment seriously:

“A conciliation process has begun, and in the coming weeks, the bank will present its explanations and views on FME’s initial assessment. The bank’s management takes FME’s initial assessment seriously. As previously reported, the bank has already made changes to internal rules and processes and will continue such work during the reconciliation process.”

“Unable to comment at this time”

Edda Hermannsdóttir, Director of Communication for Íslandsbanki, told RÚV that Birna Einarsdóttir, Íslandsbanki’s Director, could not comment on the conciliation while it was ongoing.

As insinuated by RÚV, among the rules violated by Íslandsbanki was allowing employees to buy shares in what was a closed sales process; the bank announced in May that it would be changing its rules regarding its employees’ securities transactions:

“There has been a lot of discussion about the sales process and the arrangement employed. Among other things, the participation of the bank’s employees in the sale has been criticised. We take this criticism seriously and are currently working on changes to the bank’s rules regarding employees’ securities transactions,” Birna Einarsdóttir was quoted as saying in an article on Mbl.is last May.

RÚV states that the nature of the bank’s other possible violations has not been revealed.

MP calls Íslandsbanki’s press release pitiful

Sigmar Guðmundsson, MP for the Liberal Reform Party, called Íslandsbanki’s press release “pitiful” in a post on Facebook yesterday. “The bank’s offences are committed during the sale of public property, and the bank could have shown more initiative in providing information to this same public.” The director of the bank prefers to remain silent during this so-called conciliation process, Sigmar noted, a prerogative not available to other criminal offenders.