Iceland’s Doctors Drowning in Paperwork

Iceland’s Minister of Health will meet with the chair of the Icelandic Association of Family Doctors to discuss doctors’ criticism of excessive paperwork cutting into their time with patients. Doctors sent the Minister a list of demands last month and have now been invited to a meeting tomorrow.

“This means of course that the minister is listening to what we are asking of him,” Margrét Ólafía Tómasdóttir told RÚV, though she said she is keeping her expectations in check. “We’ve previously gotten to speak with the minister about these issues back and forth without anything changing.”

Preventing doctor burnout urgent

Margrét says doctors have been discussing the issue of excessive paperwork, particularly referrals, that are required within the healthcare system since 2016, but no administrative changes have been made. “It is clear that it’s first and foremost the paperwork that is wearing down doctors, not interaction with patients.”

Margrét says doctors want to eliminate all referrals and paperwork that “does not involve a true doctors’ professional assessment.” Doctors in Iceland are often required to write referrals for patients so they can see other healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists, speech pathologists, and others, or so that their appointments with specialists are covered by health insurance.

System demands referrals and certificates

GP Indriði Einar Reynisson recently wrote about the various certificates and referrals he is regularly asked to provide in a public Facebook post. Indriði stated that schools and workplaces sometimes require multiple doctor’s certificates from students and employees for the same illness. He also stated that the Social Insurance Administration (Tryggingastofnun, or TR) often required patients to send renewed doctor’s certificates every two months, although their situation was unchanged. In the case of one disabled patient, Indriði was required to send separate certificates confirming the patients’ status to over six different institutions.

Iceland Review has regularly reported on Iceland’s shortage of doctors as well as other healthcare professionals. Margrét says that patient interactions are what provide doctors with fulfilment on the job, “But when the majority of the working day becomes meaningless paperwork where your professional knowledge doesn’t get to be used, it must burn you out and cause people to leave the profession.”

First Ukrainian Refugees Receive Icelandic Health Insurance

landspítali hospital

Twenty Ukrainian refugees were issued Icelandic health insurance yesterday. They now qualify for full benefits in the event of necessary healthcare service.

Processing to be expedited

Following the mass exodus after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Icelandic Health Insurance (IHI) announced that it would prioritise the issuing of social insurance for refugees. On Wednesday, IHI received documents necessary to issue health insurance to the first twenty refugees to arrive in Iceland. The registration was completed on the same day.

“The reception of refugees is a big task for our society and for the healthcare system in particular. We’ve endeavoured to ensure the speedy processing of documents to grant this vulnerable group immediate access to healthcare service; many of these people urgently require different services,” María Heimisdóttir, Director of Icelandic Health Insurance, wrote in a statement on IHI’s website.

The statement also notes that refugees, like all people in Iceland, always have access to emergency services, regardless of whether or not health insurance has been issued.

Millions of refugees since the invasion began

Icelandic Health Insurance will also participate in the reception of refugees at the new receiving station at Domus Medica in downtown Reykjavík. IHI will have a representative on hand to provide information regarding aid equipment, drug rebate cards, healthcare premiums, etc.

As noted in its statement, the IHI has – from the time that it was clear that Iceland would be receiving Ukrainian refugees – collaborated with health insurance providers from other European countries to ensure that these individuals have access to health insurance: a complicated task, given that millions of people have fled Ukraine over the past month since the war began.

“This collaboration will continue; most refugees intend to return to their homeland as soon as the war is over,” the statement from IHI reads.

New Contract With Speech Pathologists to Shorten Waitlists for Children

speech therapy pathology

Icelandic Health Insurance has extended its service contract with self-employed speech pathologists by six months and eliminated the prerequisite of two years of work experience, a change for which speech pathologists have been campaigning. The coming six-month period will be utilised to streamline and improve speech therapy services, including by implementing quality indicators, prioritisation, and more to ensure clients receive the best possible service.

Speech pathology is a healthcare service mostly used by children in Iceland, and waitlists for services have been lengthy in recent years. RÚV reported this month that around 900 children were on a waiting list to receive speech therapy. Until now, the cost of therapy was only covered by public health insurance if a speech pathologist had two years of work experience. This left many newly-graduated speech pathologists without work, while children who could not afford to pay for private services were placed on long waitlists.

“This is an important step,” stated Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson. “I have high hopes that a new contract will be successfully made six months from now that will bring this important service up to a good level for those who need it, and those are children for the most part.”

María Heimisdóttir, CEO of Icelandic Health Insurance, celebrated the contract extension and the fact that funds had been secured so that the two-year experience requirement could be repealed.