Denmark introduces interpreter charge at hospitals

New rules introduced on July 1st mean that people who have lived in Denmark for over three years will have to pay for interpreters if required during medical treatment.

Denmark introduces interpreter charge at hospitals
File photo: Anne Bæk/Ritzau Scanpix

The new rule means that patients that have lived for Denmark for more than three years and do not have the necessary Danish language skills to speak to medics will be billed for interpreter services.

Parliament passed the bill after the government proposal received the support of the Danish People’s Party and the Social Democrats.

Fees will apply to general practice, consultant appointments and acute treatment and hospitalisation.

Regional health authorities will be responsible for collecting fees directly from patients, and translators can be called in to interpret if this is considered to be a necessary measure for optimal patient care. The exact procedure that will be used to bill patients is yet to be determined, writes.

Patients with reduced physical or mental function or those who have lost the ability to learn Danish, children who attend appointments unaccompanied, and parents who require interpreters on behalf of their children will be excepted from the rule.

Broadcaster DR reported last week that medics are concerned some patients will be unable to pay interpretation fees and that this in turn could negatively impact healthcare.

Patients will be liable to pay 334 kroner for interpretation at doctors’ appointments and 1,675 kroner during hospitalisation, DR reports.

Lise Dyhr, a GP in Brøndby Strand, told DR that the fees could result in patients choosing not to have interpreters at consultations.

“We already spend time during many consultations talking about what type of medicine patients can afford, and then prioritising,” Dyhr said.

“We have a lot of chronically sick patients that must attend regular appointments. For example, people we place on insulin treatment… it will be expensive for them,” she added.

The GP also said that “much of (doctors’) diagnosis and treatment is based on conversation”.

She rejected the argument that patients should be expected to understand Danish after three years in the country.

“I think it is difficult to talk about what’s fair. Go out into the real world and see what it’s like. There are a lot of people who have come here for various reasons and have not been able to learn Danish within the three years,” she told DR.

Minister for Health Ellen Trane Nørby said that patients being unable to afford interpreters should not be a direct concern of doctors.

“With this law we are saying that you have three years to learn Danish. After that, if you can’t pay for an interpreter, you’ll have to find an acquaintance who speaks Danish well enough to translate,” Nørby told DR.

“It’s not the doctor’s problem,” she added.

The Ministry of Health has estimated that the new fees will save the state around 2.4 million kroner (320,000 euros) annually.

READ ALSO: The end of free language classes will push foreign professionals out of Denmark: DI


Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

Denmark now aims to work with other EU countries to transfer asylum seekers to centres outside Europe and has suspended talks with Rwanda as it no longer plans to go it alone, its migration minister said on Wednesday.

Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

The Scandinavian country’s plans, first announced by the previous Social Democratic government, called for people seeking asylum in Denmark to be transferred to reception centres outside the European Union while their requests were processed.

A law adopted in June 2021 did not specify which country would host the centre, but said asylum seekers should stay there even after they were granted refugee status.

Discussions were launched with Rwanda and other countries, but they have now been suspended since the installation of a new Danish left-right government in December headed by the Social Democrats.

“We are not holding any negotiations at the moment about the establishment of a Danish reception centre in Rwanda”, Migration and Integration Minister Kaare Dybvad told daily Altinget.

“This is a new government. We still have the same ambition, but we have a different process”, he added. “The new government’s programme calls for the establishment of a reception centre outside Europe “in cooperation with the EU or a number of other countries”.

The change is an about-face for the Social Democrats, which had until now rejected any European collaboration, judging it slow and thorny.

“While the wider approach also makes sense to us, [Denmark’s change of heart] is precisely because there has been movement on the issue among many European countries”, Dybvad said. “There are many now pushing for a stricter asylum policy in Europe”, he said.


Inger Støjberg, leader of the Denmark Democrats said on Facebook that she was “honestly disgusted” by the government’s decision to delay plans for a reception centre in Rwanda, pointing out that Kaare Dybvad had said during the election campaign that a deal would be done with Rwanda within a year. 

“Call us old-fashioned, but we say the same thing both before and after an election. We stand firm on a strict immigration policy. The Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates clearly do not,” she said. 

Lars Boje Mathiesen from the New Right Party accused the government of perpetrating a “deadly fraud” on the Danish people. 

“It is said in Christiansborg that it is paused. But we all know what that means,” he wrote on Facebook, accusing Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen of “empty words” in the run-up to the election. 

In the face of this reaction, Dybvad told the Ritzau newswire that although talks with Rwanda were not happening at present, the government had not given up on a deal with the African nation. He also said that he was confident that asylum reception centres outside of the EU would be a reality within five years.

EU interior ministers are meeting in Stockholm this week to discuss asylum reform. Those talks are expected to focus on how to speed up the process of returning undocumented migrants to their country of origin in cases where their asylum bid fails.

Denmark’s immigration policy has been influenced by the far-right for more than 20 years. Even Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the head of the Social Democrats, has pursued a “zero refugee” policy since coming to power in 2019.

Copenhagen has over the years implemented a slew of initiatives to discourage migrants and made Danish citizenship harder to obtain. In 2020, it became the only country in Europe to withdraw residency permits from Syrians from Damascus, judging that the situation there was now safe enough for them to return.