Plans to Raise Mandatory Retirement Age for Healthcare Staff to 75

Iceland’s Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson wants to speed up plans to raise the mandatory retirement age for healthcare workers to 75, RÚV reports. Public employees may not work past the age of 70 according to current regulations. Willum has stated that the move is intended to help relieve staffing issues that plague Iceland’s healthcare system, though more needs to be done.

If the regulations are amended, healthcare workers will still be dismissed upon reaching the age of 70, but would be eligible to be rehired on a new employment contract until the age of 75. Willum stated that such employees may be subject to a skills assessment.

Read More: Chairman of Medical Association Warns of Doctor Shortage

The Health Minister stated that although raising the mandatory retirement age would hopefully relieve staffing issues, it would still be necessary to make various medical professions more accessible to young people and improve recruitment across the field.

Thirty Nurses Laid Off, 24-Hour Medical Consultation Hotline to be Handed Over to Receptionists

doctor nurse hospital health

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 [1770] 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.”

See also: Four Nurses Resign from Emergency Ward

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.”

University Receives Record Number of Medical and Physiotherapy Applicants

Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland

A record number of students – 433, to be exact – have registered to take the admissions test to enter the University of Iceland’s programs in medicine and physiotherapy, RÚV reports. There has never before been such a large group of applicants to these programs.

Three hundred and forty-four students have registered to take the medical program entrance exam, which is an increase of 21 students over last year. The physiotherapy program has 99 applicants, which is only one more than last year. All of the applicants take the same test.

The medical program will admit 60 students; 35 students will be admitted to physiotherapy. How many students are admitted to each program depends on how many residency spots are open in hospitals.