Norway to triple coronavirus testing to 100,000 a week

Norway's health authorities plan to triple the number of people tested for coronavirus by the start of next month, with as many as 100,000 people being tested a week.

Norway to triple coronavirus testing to 100,000 a week
Sven Lie, technical director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health. Photo: Rebecca Ravneberg/Helsedirektoratet
Svein Lie, technical director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, told  state broadcaster NRK that his agency planned to change its criteria so that anyone who reports possible symptoms of the illness will be eligible to get tested. 
“We believe that in late April or early May we can increase by tens of thousands of tests per week. Maybe as many as up to 100,000 a week,” Lie said 
Norway is already testing a greater proportion of its population for the virus than any other country except Iceland, with about 30,000 currently tested a week and 121,034 people tested in total by Thursday.
But Lie said new testing methods were now being developed at the same time as ways were being found around shortages of reagents and other essential supplies, which had been limiting the number of tests. 
Espen Rostrup Nakstad, the agency's assistant director, said that the aim was now to test everyone who reported symptoms. “We want to test everyone who has respiratory symptoms in the future,” he said. 
“This is both to test for the illness early, but hopefully also to be able to test some way into the quarantine period to determine how long people have to stay in quarantine”. 
The directorate is also considering using testing to help the country reopen its schools and kindergartens in a safer way, or in improving the protection of elderly people in care homes. 

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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