Long Waiting Lists for Most Elective Surgical Procedures Skip to content

Long Waiting Lists for Most Elective Surgical Procedures

According to a newly-published report by the Directorate of Health, waiting lists for most elective surgical procedures are too long. Individuals electing for knee-replacement surgery, for example, must wait for 12 months on average. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on waiting lists.

Supervising healthcare in Iceland

Last month, the Directorate of Health published a report on the state of waiting lists at the National University Hospital. The report is based on data from the beginning of the year.

As noted in the introduction, the Directorate of Health is legally obligated to supervise the healthcare system in Iceland. In its fulfillment of this role, the Directorate calls for data on elective-surgery waiting lists at the National University Hospital of Iceland twice a year.

The Directorate of Health’s guidelines state that 80% of elective surgical operations should be scheduled within 90 days, RÚV reported. According to the report, however, this aim is met in only 4 out of the 18 types of surgical procedures. (The wait is acceptable with regards to cardiac valve replacements, coronary angioplasties, and prostate operations).

The majority of individuals on waiting lists, or around 80%, have waited too long for ablations (a procedure to treat atrial fibrillation), pupilloplasty, acid-reflux surgery, bariatric surgery, and knee-replacement surgery. The wait lists for most surgical categories has lengthened or stayed the same since the publication of the previous report.

A near twelve-month wait for knee-replacement surgery

Over 1,700 people are waiting for knee or hip replacement surgery, with the average wait for knee-replacement surgery at the National University Hospital being 49 weeks. The wait for pupilloplasty is also long, with approximately half of those 2,600 individuals who underwent the operation last year having waited for seven months.

As noted in the report, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on waiting lists. Special measures must be taken to increase the number of operations once the effects of the pandemic subside.

“Previous reports have indicated that a shortage of staff and hospital beds has had a negative impact on waiting lists at the National University Hospital. There are indications that this is still the case.”

As reported by Iceland Review last week, even with a new hospital to open in Reykjavík in 2026, the healthcare system is expected to be significantly short of hospital beds in 2040, i.e. if drastic measures aren’t taken.

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