There are only two general practitioners for the entirety of the Westfjords, and there has been no GP in the area’s largest town for many years.
In an article written by Þórarinn Ingólfsson, director of the Society of Icelandic General Practitioners and published in The Icelandic Medical Journal, it is brought to light that there are many GP positions open yet unfilled around the country, with some vast areas remaining without any permanent GPs. Hallgrímur Kjartansson, a GP in Patreksfjörður, told Bæjarins bestu that despite a growing need for doctors in the countryside, they continue to decrease, and there has not been a GP in Ísafjörður – the Westfjords’ largest town – for many years.
Hallgrímur believes that part of the reason for the lack of GPs is how different medical positions are defined. If you decide to become a GP, he contends, your only choice is to become a government employee, but if you become a specialist you can open your own office anywhere you like. Despite a pressing demand for GPs, Iceland’s graduating medical students are not particularly attracted to the position, and are more interested in becoming specialists. Being a GP also entails “being on call and living in some little place,” as Hallgrímur put it – a prospect that also does not appeal to many medical students.
Regardless, the need for GPs in the countryside is great. Hallgrímur is, in fact, one of two GPs for the entire Westfjords area.