Kjerkol’s New Year’s wish? More nurses in Norway

Ingvild KjerkolPhoto: Torstein Bøe / NTB

Minister of Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkol (AP) would like to have more nurses in Norway. But she is not ready to promise them a better salary.

The start of Kjerkol’s mandate as Minister of Health has been anything but easy. After pointing an angry index finger at her predecessor Bent Høie (H) for years, it is now her turn to stand at the helm of the Norwegian health system.

“We have a health service that is the best in the world. But not everything is good enough,” Kjerkol said.

There is a lack of GPs, and the threshold for receiving mental health care is far too high. But most of all, there is a lack of nurses, and the pandemic has shed a glaring spotlight on it.

When asked why the health service almost breaks down when treating 300 corona patients, Kjerkol replied:

“This only partly applies to the admitted COVID patients. There is a more holistic picture here. Our concern is first and foremost the municipal health service and its ability to provide proper health care.”

In the spotlight

It makes an impression on you when intensive care nurses are so tired that they cry on TV, the Minister of Health admits.

“Unfortunately, we do not have reserves that can step in. But now we are looking at everything that can relieve the nurses in the acute situation we are in,” Kjerkol said.

In the longer term, educating, recruiting, and retaining professionals is a top priority for the government, she stated.

“The need is very clear in the situation we are in now, with the pandemic and a health service that fully stretched.”

No promise of pay rise

At the same time, seven out of ten nurses say that they are considering leaving the profession due to high workload and, not least, low pay.

In the main wage settlement this spring, the nurses’ salary will once again be a topic. The NSF leader Lill Sverresdatter Larsen demands a real salary increase of at least NOK 100,000 for intensive care nurses. But Kjerkol is currently sweeping that demand off the table.

“It is the parties in the workforce who negotiate wages. I do not intend to change that,” she stated. 

“It is my and the government’s responsibility to ensure that the sector is financed in such a way that the parties can negotiate a wage settlement that they can live with,” she said.

In demand

“This type of salary increase has been given before,” the Minister of Health admitted when asked about giving nurses a pay rise as a Christmas present, and referred to teachers at the beginning of the 2000s when the then Minister of Education Trond Giske intervened and ensured teachers a solid salary increase.

“I think the parties are very aware of the situation the nurses are in after two years of the pandemic, and that they see the need for us to be able to recruit well in the future, and not least that we manage to keep those we have. We see that nurses are in demand in other industries.”

Kjerkol has also set up a commission to assess the demand for health personnel and competence until 2040. The demand will increase as there will be more elderly and more sick people.

And just before Christmas, Kjerkol and Minister of Education Ola Borten Moe (SP) released the “good news” about 500 extra study places for nurses.

More money needed

But that is just a drop in the ocean, critics say, because, throughout Municipality-Norway, nurses are in short supply. Around nine out of ten municipalities are struggling to get enough people, according to Fagbladet.

The Norwegian Nurses Association (NSF) says that there is currently a shortage of about 7,000 nurses. The government’s response is to allocate more money.

“We must finance this better,” Kjerkol stated.

She also promises to expand the intensive care capacity. She thinks Høie did a bad job with intensive care.

“It has been standing still for far too long,” she stated, repeatedly banging her finger hard on the table.

“And then we have to improve the GP scheme,” she added.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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