Talks between the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) and the Norwegian Medical Association (NMA) have failed to reach an agreement, and broke off negotiations prior to the deadline of midnight Thursday.
The breakdown may affect municipal on-call or emergency services throughout the country in the coming weeks.
The doctors’ union said in a statement on its website that it was planning for a strike to take place from October 26th.
Negotiations between the two sides previously broke down in September, with provisions over on-call working hours a key stumbling block.
The medical association believes that the workload for GPs is too great given that on-call services are added to normal working hours, and with doctors unable to set any limits for how many shifts can be imposed.
“On-call doctors have imposed upon them an unjustifiable workload that weakens recruitment to both the GP programme and the outpatient clinic. That KS rejects solutions that ensure liveable working hours is (a) serious (problem),” NMA president Marit Hermansen said in a statement.
KS’ position is that Norway’s system for providing on-call medics is based on GPs taking the shifts, and that the system would therefore be put in jeopardy if the doctors themselves were to be able to decide on the limit of their on-call hours.
Minister of Health Bent Høie said that he is not a party to the conflict but expressed concern over the situation.
“I am following the situation and am worried if it ends with a strike. In such case, the Norwegian Board of Health Supervision (Helsetilsynet) has the task of assessing whether a strike may pose a risk to life and health,” Høie said to NRK.
“But strikes are a legal method, including for health professionals,” the minister added.
In its statement on the potential strike, KS notes that the parties remain obliged “to negotiate as soon as possible to exempt from strike persons or groups that are necessary so as not to unduly harm the interests of third parties”.