EXPLAINED: What Denmark nurses’ strike means for you

EXPLAINED: What Denmark nurses' strike means for you
Photo: Gustavo Fring/Pexels
As nurses strike for fair pay, voluntary procedures and many appointments are likely to be delayed. And with summer holidays on the horizon, wait times aren't likely to go down.

The nurses’ strike that began nearly a month ago will soon be escalated, according to a statement from the Danish Nurses Organisation, the union representing 85 percent of Denmark’s nurses. Effective August 10th, a further 702 nurses will join the strike for a total of 5,452 nurses out of duty in order to push for equitable pay. But what does the nurses’ strike mean for patients?

Due to the ongoing pandemic, nurses essential for emergency response are exempt from the strike, according to the Danish Nurses Organisation website. But with about one in ten nurses across departments – from cardiac surgery and paediatrics to anesthesiology – participating, voluntary procedures have been delayed and wait times are longer in many facilities across the country.

READ MORE: Why Danes want to boost equality by scrapping a 1969 public sector pay reform

As of July 7th, over 28,350 activities including patient visits, operations, reports and examinations have been postponed as a result of the strike.

In Denmark, employers aren’t allowed to ask staff from other departments to cover shortfalls during a strike, Nana Wesley Hansen, a labour market researcher at the University of Copenhagen’s Employment Relations Research Centre, told DR.dk.  

Certain regions have been more dramatically affected than others. The Region of Southern Denmark has seen 11,360 activities delayed, and referrals for treatment have slowed to a crawl after six out of seven scheduling nurses for the region went on strike. Patients have been told to expect a wait of four to six weeks for newly submitted cases. In Hovedstaden, the region containing Copenhagen, 9,556 activities were delayed in weeks 25 and 26. 

The pressure on health centers will only heighten as nurses begin to take regularly-scheduled summer holidays, the Aarhus newspaper Stiftstidende anticipates – the sole remaining nurse in the Region of Southern Denmark’s referrals office is due for vacation soon.  

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