Self-Discharge and Staffing Support Ease Hospital Strain in Iceland Amid Hopes Current Wave Has Peaked Skip to content

Self-Discharge and Staffing Support Ease Hospital Strain in Iceland Amid Hopes Current Wave Has Peaked

By Yelena

Emergency room
Photo: Golli. Staff in emergency attend to a patient.

As Iceland continues to battle its largest wave of COVID-19 infection to date, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated he hopes the peak of infections has been reached. The healthcare system is experiencing strain both due to the number of COVID-19 patients that are requiring hospitalisation but also due to large numbers of staff being placed in quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. The staffing shortage has forced authorities to reduce communication with COVID-19 patients. Those who have completed the mandatory seven-day isolation can now discharge themselves, provided they no longer have symptoms.

Steady daily infection rates

Iceland reported a record 1,553 domestic cases on December 30, and has been reporting around 1,000 daily cases over the past week. According to Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason, steady daily infection rates over the past few days could mean that the current wave of COVID-19 infection has peaked. Þórólfur told RÚV that there was not much room to relax social restrictions, however, which include a general gathering limit of 20, mandatory mask use in shops, and two-metre social distancing. The current rules expire on January 12.

Hospital receives support

Private surgical office Klíníkin Ármúla has closed for three weeks while its staff are transferred to the National University Hospital to replace public healthcare staff in isolation or quarantine. Runólfur Pálsson, one of the directors of the hospital’s COVID-19 ward, says the Klíníkin staff will make a big and immediate impact. Runólfur added that much of the hospital’s staff is exhausted due to long-term strain. 

Recent changes to COVID-19 regulations should also help relieve some of the hospital’s strain. COVID-19 patients isolating at home have now been authorised to discharge themselves once their mandatory seven-day quarantine is complete, provided they no longer have symptoms. Previously, patients were required to stay in isolation until their discharge was approved by healthcare staff. Relaxed quarantine regulations for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted should also have a positive impact on staffing at the National Hospital and other workplaces in Iceland.

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