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Emergency Ward Staff Shortage Puts Patients at Risk

Management at the National University Hospital of Iceland is working to address the doctor and nurse shortage at the hospital’s emergency ward, RÚV reports. This summer 500 shifts at the ward are expected to have a shortage of nurses and four doctors at the ward have resigned so far this year. While staff has been vocal about conditions at the ward for years, Director of the Emergency Doctors’ Association Bergur Stefánsson says staffing issues have never been worse.

Bergur says Iceland’s Director of Health has sent around five reports and memoranda to the Minister of Health since 2018 addressing the emergency department’s issues. Despite those communications, “The situation has definitely not improved.” He adds that staffing issues among physicians have never been worse and if conditions at the ward do not improve, it will be impossible to ensure patients’ safety. “And with that, we are putting them at risk.”

Partial Audit Gave Ward a Failing Grade

In 2019, a partial audit published by the Directorate of Health found neither lodging nor staffing conditions at the emergency ward fulfilled regulations and that the ward could not ensure patients’ rights regarding care. “Now it has come to pass that the problem is of such magnitude that we cannot let these conditions go on,” the audit stated. “It can create grounds for unexpected incidents and the risk of additional staff dropout.”

National Hospital representatives have stated they are working to address the expected summer staff shortage as quickly as possible. The 2019 audit however stated that fully addressing the ward’s issues would require broader support from authorities. Bergur says emergency doctors have requested a meeting with the Minister of Health and the Parliamentary Welfare Committee, but have been rejected. “We need real action to be taken, real improvements.”

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