Dozens of nurses and medical technicians have handed in their resignations in the wake of strike laws passed by parliament on Saturday.
„Nurses are the backbone of the Icelandic health care system and I have heard from highly specialized nurse practitioners that they in particular will be leaving in great numbers,“ said Sigríður Gunnarsdóttir, director of nursing at Landspítalinn University Hospital to Vísir.
The outlook is grim, with resignations piling up while long waitlists have formed for inpatient units. “This would completely incapacitate the hospital. We can’t afford to lose any of our staff, nurses or others,” Sigríður added.
So far a third of radiographers at Landspítalinn have resigned, or around 20 people. At least 11 out of 24 nurses working in the hospital’s department of cardiothoracic surgery have handed in their notice, as has an entire shift of nurses in the intensive care unit, RÚV reports. An updated number of total resignations is expected in the next few days.
Edda Jörundsdóttir, a practicing nurse for the past 15 years, is one of those who plan to hand in their resignation slips this week.
“I work in Norway every now and then, I’m used to the system there, this is no great leap,” said Edda to Vísir on Saturday, standing outside of Parliament, minutes after witnessing the bill’s passing.
“I show up here to the parliamentary gallery to follow the debates, while the leaders of the administration run off, away from this acute situation, to go watch a soccer game. This is something I would never do at my job. Leave an acute situation at the hospital to go watch a soccer game?”
“It has to be clear that the responsibility for the health care system is not mine, and not ours. My responsibilities are towards my patients on my shift. I will always do my job to the absolute best of my abilities. But responsibility for the system lies here with these people,” she added, pointing to parliament.
Nurses have vented their frustrations in a closed Facebook group, and some of their stories were shared with Vísir over the weekend.
“In my career as a nurse I have had to deal with all sorts of verbal and physical violence at the hands of my clients. I’ve been spit, puked, bled, peed, and defecated on. But I’ve never taken any of it personally. It’s just a part of my job. A job that I love! These laws, on the other hand, I take very personally. I really think it’s the worst crap that’s ever been thrown at me!” said one unnamed nurse in the group.
“Our feelings about the strike laws are mixed. On one hand this strike needed to end, in regards to patient safety and the well-being of staff, but on the other the dispute has yet to be solved,” said Páll Matthíasson, chief director at Landspítalinn, to Vísir yesterday.
A representative from Sólstafir, an employment agency which specializes in helping Icelandic nurses find temporary placements in Norway, said that the company has received more inquiries in the past few weeks alone, than in all of 2014.
Many fear a serious long-term shortage of health professionals in the near future, and especially in light of these most recent developments.