From Iceland — Sour Grapes & Stuff

Sour Grapes & Stuff

Published December 2, 2011

Sour Grapes & Stuff

I was wondering if anyone out there has noticed how piss-poor the health care is in this country?  I´m from the USA and I know that healthcare there is not perfect and as a result of frivolous lawsuits, in many times, much is done that is overkill.  Isn´t that still better than indifference and unwillingness to provide adequate healthcare?  During the time that I have lived in this country (7 years), I have become appalled at the inadequacies in healthcare here.  In the USA I worked in the medical field such as the insurance end of business, routine care, mental health and emergency care, so I am familiar with how things could be done.
 A few months ago I saw a doctor for what were allergy symptoms.  The doctor prescribed allergy medicine and an asthma inhaler (I did not know it was for asthma as the doctor didn´t tell me and just said that I needed it).  In September I was ill and saw another doctor and he questioned why I was taking an asthma medication and asked me if I had a history of asthma.  I replied ‘no’, I didn´t.  He saw that in my medical record from the previous doctor, I had requested an asthma medication and that I needed it.  He told me that I should not be using the asthma meds and to stop them immediately.  He was quite concerned about this error on the part of the other doctor.  Great-I paid 5000 ISK for a medication that I never should have been given. The previous doctor, whom I have seen several times, due to the lack of my speaking adequate Icelandic, is always quite happy to prescribe drugs.  I have never left that office without a prescription.  On more than one occasion I didn´t fill the prescription because I thought it was not needed.  I have even had to tell that doctor what I thought needed to be done and the doctor was like ‘Oh, ya, ok. We should do that.’   Needless to say I have not seen that doctor again because I have no trust in her.  Two years ago, I developed severe abdominal pain (thought it could be my appendix) and went to the hospital and told the receptionist that I needed to see a doctor right away as I was ill.  This was about 9am and she was talking to a physician that was standing there.  The receptionist said, “you´ll have to call in at 11 and talk to the doctor on call as we can´t see you today.”  I told her that was not acceptable and wanted to know who was on call.  She said Dr. X, who was the one standing there!  That doctor also told me to call at 11 as she had no time to see me. She made no attempt at care at all. At that point, I probably said a few things that can´t be printed and they managed to find me an appointment 3 hours later but that I needed to go home and wait.  I was ecstatic….
 I am also borderline diabetic which is new to me and saw a different doctor. Ya know what that doctor told me??  “Here is a pamphlet in Icelandic. Have someone read it to you and find the rest of the information you need on the internet.”   No referral to a nutrionist, diabetic training, nothing.  Yep, the internet is 100% correct all the time (NOT).  I had seen a doctor at Reykalundur.  That doctor subsequently quit and I was cast adrift, not transferred to another physician, nothing.  Again-massive indifference in these situations.
 About a month ago, I was talking to a physician friend of mine and he is planning on leaving the country because the healthcare system is such a shambles here.  He is a caring and competent person and is concerned about the path of healthcare here.  He is predicting a complete collapse of the system here in the next few years.  That is scary.  A prediction like that from an Icelandic physician.
 I am fortunate that all these medical issues are behind me now and completely taken care of and I am now well.  I pray every day that nothing serious comes up.
 I think that the government or ministry or whoever oversees healthcare in this country needs to step up to the plate and make some huge changes before all is lost and all the good doctors leave the country.  Of course, most of those will probably be in the age group that are now emigrating out. What a loss.
 Oh yeah, I’m also looking for a doctor that is confident, knowledgeable and that I can trust.  Anybody know of one?
Dear Anonymous (if that IS your real name!),
thank you for your letter. It’s quite long, and there probably won’t be room for any other letters in this issue because we’re printing it, but you know: this is an important issue, and probably an important letter.
While your horrid experiences of local physicians and medical services might be due to chance and circumstance, there are plenty of these sorts of stories floating around. Is our tiny healthcare system falling apart at the seams? That would be horrible! Everyone loves healthcare!
We should do a feature on this at some point. That’s a good idea. Thank you!  

Dear Grapevine
London  is now in the grip of yet another financial crisis and our Government  is still giving money and underwriting loans to the banks.  This is akin to giving an alcoholic a litre of vodka and saying  ” Now make this your last”.   The trouble in the UK  has made me reflect on the situation in your country. My family spent a great four days in Reykavik in June.
So I have two  reflections.
– I am pro EU but it could be totally the  wrong move  for your country. Surely the history of Iceland tells us that where you have been under foreign control
or the concentration of power  has fallen into the hands of a powerful elite then disaster follows. Take the more democratic road ( which Icelanders pretty much invented)  then you can control  your own destiny, ride out the storms and even volcanic eruptions. You have a well educated resourceful population. unlimited energy, abundant water and lots of cod. So what’s the problem?
–  When we got back home from a great trip ( we were planning the next visit on the return flight) the first thing everyone said to us was.
“Sounds lovely but isn’t Iceland impossibly expensive like Norway? “.  Your tourist authorties need to get over the message that Iceland offers a unique experience
and high quality but  at affordable prices. I spent more recently on a mediocre dinner in  Madrid than I did on a superb lunch at the Laundromat Diner.  You also don’t have a  MacDonalds. This is a unique selling point for millions of people who are  sick of the Golden Arches.
So wishing you all a happy Yuletide.
Paul Bower
Dear Paul,
thank you for your letter, and your kind words.
You are probably right in most of your assertions. Well maybe. Some of them anyway. Some people think that joining the EU would actually serve to free us from the powerful elites that run our shit (Iceland is pretty much a feudalistic society, with some nepotism blended in for good measure. Unfortunately. It’s a real bummer).
We are definitely cheaper than Norway. Looking at Norway on a map costs like, thirty quid. Forget about getting a pylsa there, too (there’s plenty of million Norsk Krone Big Macs though). But we’re still pretty expensive, right? At least in Madrid they give you free food with your beer. Here, you barely get a beer in your beer. It’s just watery, yellow fizzy stöff (we call it “bjór”).

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