All thirty nurses working for Læknavaktin were laid off at the end of May, RÚV reports. Læknavaktin has been responsible for not only providing after-hours medical care in the capital area, but its nurses also staff a free, 24-hour phone line for the whole country. Starting September 1, phone consultations will be handled by receptionists at Heilsugæslan health clinics in Reykjavík, a change that Elva Björk Ragnarsdóttir, director of nursing at Læknavaktin, believes will have an adverse effect on the services provided.
Nurses at Læknavaktin have been available 24-hours a day to patients all over the country via the 1770 phone line. Currently, anyone who calls this free number is able to speak to a Læknavaktin nurse who will help them assess the severity of their situation and offer advice on how to address the matter, be that to visit a local health care clinic during business hours, go directly to a hospital emergency room, or, in certain circumstances, receive a house call from a physician.
The decision to have receptionists at the capital’s health care clinics handling these phone consultations rather than trained healthcare professionals strikes Elva Björk as a misstep.
“I mean, around 80-90% of the calls we get here need an education in healthcare to address,” she said. “The  phone number has become increasingly well-known—people know they can call here, which is a good thing in many ways, because often, we can prevent unnecessary visits to the ER and the children’s ER and to Læknavaktin here.”
The change in service will ultimately have the greatest impact on people living outside of the capital area, where healthcare services are not generally available outside of business hours.
“In that the Heilsugæslan health care clinics do not appear to be fully staffed during daytime hours, it doesn’t make sense to me to be taking on a 24-hour service that in reality, you need nurses to oversee,” said Elva Björk.
Asked if she thought services to public would deteriorate as a result of these changes, Elva Björk didn’t hesitate: “Yes, I would say so, if it’s going to be set-up the way it’s been presented to me.”