Nurse Charged with Manslaughter Pleads Not Guilty

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

A National Hospital nurse charged with manslaughter has pleaded not guilty in a recent hearing by the Reykjavík District Court.

The nurse in question was charged with manslaughter in December of 2022 for “crimes committed in public service.”

See also: National Hospital Nurse Charged with Manslaughter

The nurse stands accused of force-feeding a patient in the National Hospital to death in August of 2021. She is said to have culpably caused the death of the victim, a woman in her fifties.

The accused was originally sentenced to be kept in custody for some time during the course of the investigation, but Vísir reports that this decision was overruled by the National Court.

The case is expected to be judged by judicial panel, in addition to including the testimony of medical professionals.

The hearing is scheduled for January 30.

New Director of National Hospital System Outlines Strategy

landspitali national university hospital iceland

The National University Hospital of Iceland recently had a new board of directors nominated by Alþingi.

Björn Zoëga, orthopaedic surgeon and current director of the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden, has been selected as the chairman of the board.

In a statement, Björn said: “I am very grateful for the trust that has been shown to me with this appointment. I care about the interests of the Icelandic healthcare system and I am convinced that my experience will be useful in the projects that lie ahead. Such an arrangement is important, not only in terms of operations but in terms of the interests of patients, staff and society. I am convinced that it will be for the best of the country.”

Other appointments to the National Hospital’s board include:

  • Gunnar Einarsson, former mayor of Garðabær and doctor of management and education.
  • Höskuldur H. Ólafsson, serving as consultant and business analyst.
  • Ingileif Jónsdóttir, Head of Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases at Icelandic Genetics and Professor of Immunology at the University of Iceland.
  • Sólrún Kristjánsdóttir, CEO of Veitur and managing director.

In a recent interview with Morgunblaðið, Björn outlined his strategy for the National Hospital system.

Björn states that he hopes to simplify the organizational structure of the hospital system. Specifically, he highlights as a problem the excess of employees in the hospital system not directly involved with patient care. In the last few years, he says, the amount of middle management has grown much more than those on the frontlines of patient care.

By simplifying the organizational structure and reorganizing the middle management, Björn hopes to bring Iceland’s National Hospital system in line with other modern hospitals.


New Response Team To Tackle Emergency Ward’s Issues

Emergency room

The Ministry of Health has founded a new response team for Emergency healthcare services on the advice of the Director of Health. The National Hospital’s Council of Specialists has issued a statement where they declared grave worries over staffing.

According to the Health Ministry’s notice, the Ministry, the Directorate of Health, Icelandic Health Insurance, the regional healthcare institutions, and the Capital Area’s Off-hour Medical Clinic have formed a response team on Emergency Healthcare services in Iceland.

The reason is the grave situation within the emergency services but the notice also states that the reasons for this situation is complicated, but dominating factors are lack of trained healthcare professionals and lack of resources for senior citizens, disabled people and other sensitive demographics.

Among the action plans are coordination of actions and tighter cooperation within healthcare institutions, increased support to at-home nursing in the capital area and increased services of the National Hospital’s emergency ward and larger facilities.

The response team also plans for the National Hospital to reinforce the operations of the Reykjanes peninsula, west Iceland, and South Iceland regional Healthcare institutions by assisting with test results. Processes within the National Hospital will be improved to shorten the time patients spend in the emergency ward and a part of that project is to review treatment procedures in senior care and increase other specialities’ services to patients in the emergency ward.

The notice was issued on the heels of the National Hospital’s Specialist Council expressing their grave worries over the hospital’s staffing issues. The council stated that almost all professions within the hospitals were understaffed and that had a negative impact on the hospital’s services and threatened patient and staff security. Authorities were challenged to support the National hospital to ensure better services.

The head of the National Hospital’s Emergency ward Már Kristjánsson welcomes the new response team and told Vísir that such extensive consultation between healthcare service providers is a novel approach. The situation at the Emergency ward remained serious, however, and the healthcare system as a whole needed extensive review before receiving increased funding.

According to Már, the root of the problem is a lack of planning. Too many people seek out the emergency ward for mild illnesses that can wait, while others are stuck in emergency wards and other wards who should be in rehabilitation or nursing homes. “The lack of organisation within the National hospital leads to people seeking service in the wrong part of the system and that we haven’t been able to get people to the right place,” Már told Vísir.

Improved organisation and management is one of the new response team’s main goals but increased funding for the hospital had also been discussed. Már states that improving the organisation is a priority. “I think we should maximise our output within the current system and then figure out what needs improving in regards to funding.”

COVID-19 in Iceland: Domestic Restrictions to Continue Unchanged

Iceland’s current domestic restrictions, including a 20-person gathering limit, will be extended for an additional three weeks, Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson announced following a cabinet meeting this morning. Authorities will monitor developments closely in the coming days, Willum stated, to determine whether further measures are necessary to contain the wave of infection. The country’s goal should be to bring daily infections down to 500 in order to protect the healthcare system, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason has stated.

There are currently over 10,000 active COVID-19 infections in Iceland and over 10,000 others are in quarantine. The country has reported around 1,000 daily cases since late December, its largest wave since the start of the pandemic. Iceland’s domestic restrictions were tightened on December 23, 2021 due to rising infection rates, and include a general gathering limit of 20, two-metre social distancing, and mandatory mask use in shops, on public transport, and in services requiring contact. Restaurants, bars, and clubs must close by 10:00 PM, while swimming pools and gyms may not operate above 50% capacity. These restrictions, set to expire on January 12, have now been extended until early February.

Delta variant still straining hospital

Willum emphasised that the coming days were critical in the development of this wave of infection, particularly in ensuring the healthcare system does not get overwhelmed. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir stated that while evidence showed the Omicron variant caused less serious illness than previous variants, the sheer number of cases is nevertheless straining the healthcare system. Furthermore, the Delta variant continues to be widespread in Iceland, causing serious illness and hospitalisation at higher rates than Omicron.

1,000 daily cases until February

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason and Head Physician of Iceland’s COVID-19 Ward Már Kristjánsson met with the Parliamentary Welfare Committee this morning, where they provided MPs with the latest data and projections on the developing wave of infection. Modelling shows that daily infections will remain around 1,000 until February, and around 90 COVID-19 patients will be in hospital by the end of the month, with 20 of them requiring intensive care. Þórólfur stated that daily infections would need to be brought down to 500 in order to protect the healthcare system. 

Þórólfur said that booster shots and COVID-19 infection would eventually increase COVID-19 immunity in Iceland, but it would take weeks or even months for the effects to make an impact, even if the situation remains unchanged.

In Focus: The National Hospital’s Persistent Problem of Patient Flow

The Icelandic healthcare system is a popular topic of discussion. One of the biggest government expenditures, there’s one thing the Icelandic public agrees on, left and right : healthcare costs should be paid by the government. Government expenditure towards the healthcare system amounted to more than 8% of the country’s GDP in 2020. How the […]

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Situation at National Hospital Improves

Emergency room

The National and University Hospital is lowering its emergency level from ‘Alert Phase,’ to ‘Uncertainty Phase,’ which is the lowest preparedness level. This welcome news comes via a press release issued by the hospital on Wednesday.

The downgrade in emergency level comes as hospitalizations due to COVID-19 decrease. As of Wednesday afternoon, seven people, with an average age of 53, were hospitalized due to COVID-19, only one of whom was in intensive care. None of the patients were on a respirator. With fewer COVID patients to care for, the hospital has also been able to reopen Ward A7, which usually serves as the Infectious Diseases ward. A7 had been converted to a COVID ward when there were more patients than could be accommodated in the main COVID ward.

At the time of writing, there were 930 individuals in quarantine and 544 in isolation.

Improved situation comes in the wake of a difficult August

Only weeks ago, in mid-August, Intensive Care Units at the National Hospital were “at the breaking point.” Staff was stretched and exhausted and there was a real risk that if a non-COVID emergency situation occurred, the hospital would not have the resources to respond to it. Adding to the strain was the sudden influx of tourists: 15% of patients monitored by the COVID-19 ward in mid-August were foreign tourists, with 25-40% of patients in the ICU belonging to this group.

Most infections among children aged 6 – 12

On Wednesday, RÚV also reported that the highest number of COVID-19 infections are among children aged 6-12. At the time of writing, 139 children in this age group were infected. Vaccinations are currently available to children 12 and older.

Police Investigate Death At National Hospital

A recent death at the National University Hospital is under police investigation, RÚV reports. A woman in her fifties is in custody after a woman in her fifties died in one of the hospital’s wards this month. It is believed her death occurred under suspicious circumstances.

The Police issued a statement on Saturday, stating that on Wednesday, a woman was sentenced to custody on the grounds of research interest. The research is going well, according to the statement.

Superintendent Margeir Sveinsson with the Central Investigative Department would not comment if the case is being investigated as manslaughter with or without intent but told RÚV that the police is investigating the case from all angles. An autopsy has been performed but the results are not ready. He would not comment further on the investigation.

According to RÚV’s sources, the woman was a patient with the National Hospital’s mental ward when she died and the woman in custody was working on the ward. The sources claim that the woman suffocated and that it happened during mealtime.

A notice from the National Hospital stated that the national hospital informed the police and the Directorate of Health of an unexpected death. As the case is currently under investigation, neither staff nor the hospital’s administrators will comment or confirm information relating to the death.

Two More Deaths Due to COVID-19 in Iceland

fatal accident Iceland

Two more individuals have died at the National University Hospital of Iceland due to COVID-19. These deaths bring the total of COVID-19 deaths in Iceland to four. RÚV reports that the two individuals were both in their seventies, one male and one female. Both died roughly within the last 24 hours.

The first death in the country related to COVID-19 occurred earlier this month, when an Australian tourist in his 30s died in North Iceland, testing positive for coronavirus. Though an investigation into his cause of death is ongoing, authorities believe it likely he died from COVID-19. A woman in her 70s died of COVID-19 on March 23 at the National Hospital in Reykjavík. She was the first Icelandic resident to die of the disease.