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HEALTH

Oslo mulls winter ban on diesel cars

Oslo bureaucrats have commissioned an expert group to provide shock therapy for the city’s thickly polluted winter air, a remedy expected to produce a ban on modern diesel-driven cars in the capital.

A number of research initiatives have reported newer diesel motors emit more nitrogen-oxide than older diesel engines, so drivers of shiny new cars will face restrictions.

“A driving ban on all diesel motors should be the absolute last resort,” said national driving club spokesperson Inger Elisabeth Sagedal.

Yet on some winter days, Oslo air is as hard on children, asthma sufferers and those with cardiovascular diseases as some of China’s worst industrial centres, city officials have said.

Doctors are understood to be among the experts called on to convey citizens’ health needs to the expert committee drawing up vehicle restrictions on key road arteries.

“Here is a chance to put together things that have a real effect,” Geir Endregard of the Astma og Allergi Forbund (Asthma and Allergy Association) told broadcaster NRK.

“(Diesel engines) are the big bad wolf when it comes to air quality,” he said.

The city experimented with closing its streets to diesel emissions in February 2011, when the last digits on licence plates determined whether a vehicle could enter the city on days when the air was “acutely bad”.

This year, a number of actions are being considered: making all diesel-driven cars stay away; a ban on all personal cars burning diesel; no driving alone in a diesel-powered car and no heavy transport through the city.

In the lead-up to a ban next winter, southern Norway’s chronically late rail and overburdened buses and trams will have to expand services, and it is uncertain whether managers will cope. There is too little time to expand the number of parking spots at suburban train stops for an experiment this winter, but the licence plate numbers game is seen coming into play again as heavy, frozen mists laden with pollutants again seize the city.

Nitrogen-oxide, a formidable ozone killer and the curse of the shipping industry, has increased in concentration over Oslo in the days since particle filters were introduced for diesel motors.

Sagedal said her driver organization, NAF, understands the link between diesel motors and health, “but a ban on diesel driving in winter is the worst solution”. She told NRK trying to improve public transport solutions first was the right move.

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HEALTH

Why are more people waiting to be given a GP in Norway?

As many as 116,000 people are waiting to be given a "fastlege", or GP, in Norway. So, why are residents having to wait to be assigned a doctor?

More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork.
More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

A recent quarterly report from the Norwegian Directorate of Health has revealed that 116,000 people in Norway are on the waiting list to be given a GP

Furthermore, the number of those without a doctor has grown in recent years, with those in rural and northern parts of the country more likely to be left waiting for a GP. 

The current GP scheme in Norway allows everyone to choose their own doctor, who acts as the patients’ main point of contact with the health service. Your GP is also responsible for your primary medical needs, and you are allowed to change your doctor twice a year. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Doctors in Norway have warned that a lack of funding and staff is threatening the GP system. 

“The GP scheme is on the verge of collapsing because there are too few doctors,” Bernand Holthe, a GP on the board of the Nordland Medical Association and a member of GP’s association for the area, told public broadcaster NRK

He says that reform in 2012 to the GP system has left doctors with too much work with not enough resources at their disposal. 

“After the collaboration reform in 2012, the GP scheme has been given too many tasks without receiving a corresponding amount of resources,” Holthe said. 

The government has pledged around 450 million in funding for GPs in its state budget for 2022, which Holthe argues isn’t enough to recruit the number of GPs necessary. 

Nils Kristian Klev and Marte Kvittum Tangen who represent the country’s 5,000 or so GPs also said they were disappointed with the level of funding allocated for doctors in the national budget. 

“The Labor Party was clear before the election that they would increase the basic funding in the GP scheme. This is by far the most important measure to ensure stability and recruitment and it is urgent,” the pair told Norwegian newswire NTB.

Patients have been left frustrated, and in a recent survey on healthcare in the country, one reader of The Local expressed their frustration at not having a GP. 

“I moved from Olso to Tromso, and I’m currently without a GP. Helsenorge didn’t think this was an issue and told me to visit a hospital if I needed to see a doctor. How can a municipality have no places for a doctor? Everyone has a right to a local doctor, and I’ve been left with nothing. All I can do is join a waiting list in the hopes a place turns up before I get ill,” Sinead from Tromsø said in the survey. 

Another reader described the fastlege system as “horrible”. 

Key vocabulary

Fastlege– GP 

Legevakt– Emergency room

Sykehus– Hospital 

Helseforsikring– Health insurance

Legekontor- Doctors office

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