From Iceland — Squeezing Blood From A Turnip: Iceland’s Universal Healthcare At Risk

Squeezing Blood From A Turnip: Iceland’s Universal Healthcare At Risk

Squeezing Blood From A Turnip: Iceland’s Universal Healthcare At Risk

Published December 9, 2014

Gabríel Benjamin
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In a small and private ceremony in a chapel in Fossvogur, around 30 friends and family members are present to pay their respects to 50-year-old Rósa Mikaelsdóttir, a single mother of three who passed away on November 17. Rósa had struggled with mental disorders for most of her life—in particular severe anxiety and depression—and, following the 2008 banking crisis, had a hard time making ends meet on her disability allowance.

After the ceremony, I speak with her family. They tell me that Rósa barely managed to keep a roof over her head in recent years, and that she often couldn’t afford to seek proper medical treatment. These difficulties, they tell me, were caused by structural changes to the healthcare system, which increased the cost of medication and outpatient appointments.

The results of Rósa’s autopsy were inconclusive, they tell me. Although they remain hopeful that further testing will reveal her cause of death, they may have to wait a while.

At present, the Icelandic healthcare system is arguably going through its most tumultuous period yet. The nation’s first doctors’ strike is in full effect. Medical staff are overworked and exhausted following prolonged austerity measures. Some hospital buildings are infested with mould. And so on.

The question is: how did we get here? And, perhaps more importantly, have we reached the point of no return? We attempt to answer that question in the following five articles:

Landspítali careIceland’s Healthcare System: How Does It Work?

A broad view of the country’s healthcare system and how it has changed through the years.


Landspítali blood testsPrescribing Trouble: Iceland’s Social Insurance Explained

A look at how Iceland’s social insurance system has changed in recent years, and how some feel it isn’t working the way it was meant to.


LSH Down To The BoneDown To The Bone: The Healthcare System, Post-Austerity

The current shape and financial situation of Iceland’s healthcare system, and how the previous and current Minister of Health views the situation.


LSH May Day MaydayMay Day Mayday: Iceland’s Ongoing Doctor Strike

An in-depth account of the doctor strike, and what might happen if it isn’t resolved soon.


Páll Matthíasson by Hörður SveinssonIceland’s University Hospital: The Director Speaks

University Hospital director Páll Matthíasson, on how his hospital has weathered the storm of austerity measures, how it compares to our neighbouring countries, and what the future looks like.

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