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HEALTH

One billion Danish kroner assigned for ‘extraordinary’ health service spending

Significant extra funding is to be given to the Danish health service after the government and its parliamentary partners agreed a deal as part of the 2022 budget.

Denmark has an announced an emergency, one-off investment of one billion kroner on health services for winter 2021-22.
Denmark has an announced an emergency, one-off investment of one billion kroner on health services for winter 2021-22. File photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The deal means a billion kroner has been set aside for additional spending in extraordinary circumstances, and will be used to retain health sector staff and boost hospital capacity.

Following weekend negotiations, the parties behind the budget revealed that it would include a significant one-off investment in the public health service, which has come under increasing strain due to factors including the Covid-19 pandemic and industrial disputes, notably between nurses and the government.

The money is to be distributed to the regional authorities who can decide how to spend it in consultation with staff organisations, broadcaster DR writes.

As such, it is currently unclear precisely how the spending will resolve issues such as treatment backlogs and staff shortages.

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“Not least because of corona, our health service has been put under a considerable strain and we have therefore decided to put aside an extraordinary one billion kroner for a temporary response during the winter so we can protect our health service, our staff and our patients,” finance minister Nicolai Wammen said during the presentation of the budget.

Health minister Magnus Heunicke also commented on the decision, DR reports.

“It’s very unusual to give a billion kroner to one area in this way as part of a budget. But this is also an unusual situation,” Heunicke said.

The leader of one of the other parties behind the budget, Pia Olsen Dyhr of the Socialist People’s Party, called the decision an “acute solution”.

“But we are obviously not solving the big problem with equal pay or the health service in general. This is an acute solution which is needed at a very, very difficult time after two years with corona,” Dyhr said.

A trade union for social care workers expressed backing for the decision.

“This is a package that is extremely welcome. We’re in an extremely critical situation at hospitals and something needed to be done now. But it’s too early to speculate about what it will mean exactly for our members,” Mona Strib, head of FOA, the union that represents healthcare personnel including hospital social care staff, said in comments reported by DR.

“It could mean that some go from working part time to full time for a while, that some have a high amount of overtime, and that tasks are distributed between staff groups temporarily. We’ll see a hybrid of different solutions,” Strib added.

The deal also includes provisions to extend a freeze on taxation of extra income for people who take on extra jobs related to Covid-19 (such as retirees who work at test centres, for example).

It also earmarks spending to reduce processing times for authorisation of foreign health professionals, an area which is currently subject to severe delays.

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HEALTH

‘Forever chemical’ PFAS found in organic eggs in Denmark

Most Danish egg producers said on Monday they would no longer use fish meal in feed for organic hens after the pollutant chemical PFAS was detected in eggs.

‘Forever chemical’ PFAS found in organic eggs in Denmark

Danske Æg, an industry organisation representing around 90 percent of producers in the country, said in a statement that fish meal would no longer be used as a result of the discovery.

“In consideration of food safety we have stopped using fish meal,” Danske Æg sector director Jørgen Nyberg Larsen said in the statement.

A study conducted by the DTU National Food Institute (DTU Fødevareinstituttet) and the Danish Veterinary and Food Association (Fødevarestyrelsen) found a high PFAS content in egg yolks from hen farms across Denmark.

The chemical was transferred to the eggs from fish meal, which is used in feed for the hens, the study concluded.

“We take the situation very seriously because food safety is crucial for all of us. We are therefore no removing fish meal from organic eggs and putting all our efforts towards better understanding the situation,” Larsen said. 

What are PFAS? 

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a large group of synthetic chemicals used in various products since the early 1950s. Their past uses include foam in fire extinguishers, food packaging and in textiles, carpets and paints. Also known as ‘forever chemicals’, they persist in water and soil and can cause harm to human health. 

Due to their chemical properties, they take a long time to break down and can be found in very low concentrations in blood samples from populations all over the world.

They are, however, unwanted in the environment because they have been found to have concerning links to health complications. Their use in materials which come into contact with foods, like paper and card, has been banned in Denmark since 2020.

PFAS have been linked to a series of health complications and, if ingested in high enough amounts, are suspected of causing liver damage, kidney damage, elevated cholesterol levels, reduced fertility, hormonal disturbances, weaker immune systems, negatively affecting foetal development and being carcinogenic.

READ ALSO: PFAS pollution: What do people living in Denmark need to know?

DTU National Food Institute said that the issue with the chemical making its way into eggs can be solved by changing the feed given to hens.

“We are already in close dialogue with the animal feed industry and work is ongoing on measures that will eliminate the problem. We note that DTU also has suggested solutions and we will naturally look at those,” Larsen said.

“But right now, we are putting a stop to fish meal so that consumers can also feel comfortable with organic eggs in the short term. After that, we can naturally look at a permanent fix,” he said.

Supermarket company Coop said on Monday that it had no plans to remove organic eggs from its shelves as a result of the detection of PFAS.

The company, which owns the SuperBrugsen, Irma and Kvickly grocery store chains, told news wire Ritzau it had been in contact with its suppliers of organic eggs to confirm that the level of PFAS in the eggs does not exceed the permitted amount.

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