Denmark struggles to recruit nurses despite government promising 1,000 more

Although the government has promised to increase the number of nurses in Denmark, the challenge of recruiting requisite numbers is growing.

Denmark struggles to recruit nurses despite government promising 1,000 more
File photo: Linda Kastrup/Ritzau Scanpix

In 2018, then-opposition leader Mette Frederiksen promised that she would increase the number of nurses by 1,000 by 2021 nationallly.

But the total number of nurses working within the Danish public health system has decreased by 473 ‘working years’ over the past 12 months, broadcaster DR reported on Monday.

The figures in the DR report come from the Danish Health Data Authority (Sundhedsdatastyrelsen). A ‘working year’ (årsværk in Danish) equates to the total working hours of one full-time staff member for one year.

Frederiksen’s Social Democratic party promised in its campaigning for the 2019 general election to hire 1,000 more nurses for the health system as soon as possible.

The proposal for next year’s budget sets aside 300 million kroner for hiring nurses – funded in part by raising the price of cigarettes.

Helle Dirksen, who is head of the Danish Nurses' Organization (Dansk Sygeplejeråd), told DR that the government already has catching up to do if it wants to fulfil the election promise.

“We are starting from less than zero. I assume that the missing nurses will be added to the 1,000 by which we are already short,” Dirksen said.

Those comments appear to be supported by Kjeld Møller Pedersen, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark’s Department of Public Health, who said that finding so many extra nurses represents a challenge for the government.

“It’s not as though there are 500 unemployed nurses. I think they are in demand in municipalities and in general practice,” Pedersen told DR.

Minister for Health Magnus Heunicke admitted that Denmark faces a bigger challenge than expected in increasing the number of nurses working within the health service.

“The new figures show that, whilst we have been discussing this, things are moving in the wrong direction,” Heunicke told DR.

The Zealand administrative health region is cited as having seen a particularly sharp loss of nurses, with 155 working years’ less workforce in the second quarter of 2019 compared to 2018’s third quarter.

That is due in part to a large number of redundancies last year, DR writes.

“If it’s possible to let so many nurses go, then it must also be possible to get the number to go in the other direction,” Heunicke told DR.

The minister noted that financing for the new nurses was still under negotiation, with the budget still at the proposal stage.

READ ALSO: What Denmark's new budget proposal means for foreign residents

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New Year’s Eve injury rate bounces back to normal in Denmark

The number of people treated for fireworks-related injuries on New Year's Eve in Denmark has bounced back to normal levels, with 16 people treated for eye injuries after the celebrations.

New Year's Eve injury rate bounces back to normal in Denmark
Fireworks led to 16 eye injuries on New Year's Eve. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

This is up from the unusually low 12 people who were treated for eye injuries during and after the celebrations last year. Two of this year’s injuries are sufficiently severe that the injured are expected to lose their sight completely or partially.

“After a very quiet evening last year, it is back to a normal, average level,” Ulrik Correll Christensen, head doctor at the ophthalmology department at Rigshospitalet, told the country’s Ritzau newswire. “It is a completely extraordinary situation at the eye departments on New Year’s Eve. It is not at all something we see on a daily basis.” 

Christensen has tallied up reports from all of Denmark’s eye units, including the major ones in Copenhagen, Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and Næstved. 

He said that 15 out of the 16 cases had not worn safety goggles, two thirds were between ten and thirty years old. 

“The most important thing is to follow the advice when firing fireworks. Wear safety goggles and keep a good distance,” he said. 

The number of ambulance call outs on New Year’s Eve is also back to normal, with 1,188 emergency vehicles sent out, compared to 875 last year. 

In the Capital Region of Copenhagen, there were 44 call-outs were related to fireworks, of which 16 were for hand injuries and 14 for eye injuries.