A petition to increase funding for health care has gathered enough signatures to be the largest in Icelandic history. It is already 3/4 of the way towards its goal of 100,000 signatures after just three weeks.
The petition in question, Endurreisn (“Restoration”), demands the government devote at least 11% of budget revenue to the health care system. The petition has proven wildly popular, and has received widespread support from people in the health care industry.
Endurreisn’s numbers have already exceeded the total signatures gathered for other popular petitions in Icelandic history, such as a petitions regarding the domestic airport in Reykjavík, European Union accession and paying back the Icesave debt.
The Endurreisn petition was announced last December, when deCODE CEO Kári Stefánsson wrote a column for Fréttablaðið, wherein he criticised the lack of priority given to Iceland’s health care system.
Cuts to hospital funding are currently being proposed by the parliamentary Budget Committee. Budget Committee chairperson Vigdís Hauksdóttir has accused Landspítali director Páll Matthíasson of “inflicting psychological violence” on the committee with his pleas for more funding, but Kári contends the fault lies entirely with the Budget Committee themselves.
“For this reason, I want to let the Budget Committee know that if it does not change the budget proposal in such a way that much more money is allocated to Landspítali, myself and some associates will launch a petition of 100,000 signatures that the people never again vote for the parties that comprise this government, because of the coldness and indifference that it shows the sick and injured in our society,” he wrote in part. “The collection of signatures will be an easy task. The people are distressed.”
The petition has not gone without criticism, with Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson himself questioning the data behind the petition’s contentions. The petition states that Iceland only spends about 8.7% of its GDP on health care; lower than any other Nordic country. This contention is based on figures from a 2015 OECD report on the matter, which uses figures from 2013. The Prime Minister countered with data he retrieved from the World Bank, which states Iceland spends 9.1% of its GDP on health care.
In addition, spending more on health care does not necessarily equate better health care: the United States, while lacking a universal health care system, is second only to Tuvalu in terms of percentage of GDP spent on health care: 17.1%. Countries that have achieved the 11% mark include Sierra Leone, Moldova, Leshoto and Rwanda.