Norway hospitals raise alarm over shortage of nurses from Sweden and Denmark

Norway hospitals raise alarm over shortage of nurses from Sweden and Denmark
AFP
The border closure between Norway and Sweden has not come without problems, some more serious than others including job losses and a shortage of nurses at Norwegian hospitals.

Since the borders closed with Sweden last month and testing-requirements for Swedish commuting health personnel were tightened, Norwegian hospitals have faced issues due to understaffing, broadcaster TV2 reports.

Instead of being able to go straight to work after a negative Covid-test, the new requirements demand commuting health personnel to quarantine for three days before getting tested.

Oslo University Hospital (OUS) raised the alarm after revealing they were unable to cover 330 shifts last week due to a lack of specialist nurses. The A&E department was the hardest hit, where 203 shifts were supposed to be covered by Danish and Swedish staff. 

Since the requirement for testing was introduced in July, Oslo University Hospital has tested more than 3,000 commuting staffers. Of these, only five tested positive for coronavirus according to TV2.

Head of the A&E department at Oslo University Hospital, Øyvind Skraastad, told the broadcaster that the situation was rapidly deteriorating.
 
“For each week that passes, the situation gets worse and worse,” he said.
“We are not self-sufficient and therefore dependent on temporary staff from abroad with specialist expertise.
 
“We understand that there is a need for general restrictions to kill the virus, but believe that in regards to socially critical functions, consequences were not considered thoroughly prior to restrictions being adopted,” he said.
 
The hospital chief said the staff commuting from abroad are often used to cover inconvenient working hours at night and on weekends.
 
“We bring in highly qualified specialist nurses from Sweden and Denmark, and when they disappear we get a huge problem,” he said.
 
“We managed it this weekend because we moved staff from the daytime shifts during the week over to the weekend, but we can not continue like that.”

Understaffing means the hospitals now have to postpone scheduled surgeries. Children at the intensive care unit awaiting surgery will be most affected, because many Swedish and Danish specialists work there.
 
Hilde Myhren, Medical Director at the hospital said: “We have 70 to 80 intensive care nurses who come to us every week. They have expertise that we don’t have in Norway, so we cover these shifts with Swedish and Danish specialist nurses.”

Currently there is no indication from the Norwegian Government that restrictions regarding quarantine for critical health personnel will be changed anytime soon.


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