No Norwegian agreement over doctors’ terms as strike awaits

Union and employer representatives have broken off talks over a new collective bargaining agreement for doctors’ work terms.

No Norwegian agreement over doctors’ terms as strike awaits
Illustration photo. Christopher Boswell on Unsplash

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.

READ ALSO: Norway faces possible doctors' strike as deadline looms for deal

“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”.

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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday 

Find out what’s going on in Norway on Thursday with The Local’s short roundup of important news.

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday 
Oslo Operahus. Photo by Arvid Malde on Unsplash

Strikes could affect vulnerable children 

Municipal strikes among teachers and nurses could impact vulnerable children, the children’s ombudsmen has said. 

“I am concerned about the overall consequences that the strike and the pandemic may have on children and young people. The students bear a disproportionately large part of the burden, which increases each passing day,” Inga Bejer Engh, children’s ombud, told press agency NTB. 

Municipal workers have been on strike since last week when mediation talks between union Unio and municipalities over wage settlements broke down. 

Cases of Delta Covid variant detected in Trondheim

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“We have done a partial genome sequencing and have identified 11 cases of the Indian variant in Trondheim. We are 99 percent sure that it is the Indian variant we are dealing with,” Chief Physician at St Olav’s Hospital told local news site Nidaros.

According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, there have been 55 cases of the Delta strain detected in Norway. 

On Tuesday, coronavirus measures in Trondheim were tightened for the second time in a week. 

New quarantine hotel rules 

From today, anyone who has received their first coronavirus jab in Norway, at least three weeks before their arrival, and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the country in the last six months will not be forced into quarantine hotels when they arrive in Norway.

READ MORE: Norway eases Covid hotel quarantine rules

Travellers arriving in Norway who were vaccinated in foreign countries will still have to enter quarantine hotels.

The scheme will be in place until Norway’s full “coronavirus certificate” is released on June 11th.

READ MORE: NEW: Norway to launch full version of digital ‘Covid certificate’ 

Norway to provide poorer countries with 1 million extra Coronavirus vaccines 

Norway has said it will provide an extra one million Covid-19 vaccine doses to low-income countries through the equitable access Covax scheme. 

Led by organisations including UNICEF, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Covax aims to offer equal access to vaccines for all countries. The scheme is primarily funded by wealthy Western countries, with the EU having pledged €500 million as of November 2020.

The Nordic country had previously provided poorer countries with the option to secure 700,000 vaccine doses through the scheme. 

READ MORE: Why Norway turned down the chance to order nearly 700,000 Covid-19 vaccines

353 new Covid-19 cases in Norway 

On Wednesday, 353 new cases of coronavirus were registered in Norway. This is eight cases more than the seven-day average of 345. 

In the capital, Oslo, 128 new Covid cases were registered in the city. Cases have risen sharply in recent days and yesterday’s figures represent an increase of 69 on the seven-day average. 

The R-number or reproduction rate in Norway is currently 1.0. This means that every ten people that are infected will, on average, only infect another ten people, indicating that the infection level is stable.

Number of reported Covid-19 cases. Source: NIPH