Don’t you dare needing emergency medical care!

Over two weeks ago, I got to experience the « pleasure » of going to the emergency room for the second time since I moved to Bergen. This time, I needed stitches after a treacherous glass I was polishing decided to break in two and land in my right thumb. Here is an occasion to talk about emergency services in Norway.

Here are the culprits!

The emergencies are located in a building called Legevakt, in Bergen located right next to the busiest road intersection and not far from the main hospital, Haukeland. All municipalities are supposed to have a legevakt, or a public emergency room, but very small places usually share one that can welcome more people from around. If it’s really urgent or life-threatening, you have to call the 113, if not the 116 117 also puts you in touch with medical staff right away, charged to evaluate the seriousness of your case and if you need an ambulance or not. You can find a breakdown of all the emergency numbers and reasons to call them on this website.

What bars and restaurants should really have to help out in case of an accident, from Pixabay.

In my case, it wasn’t life-threatening and the person who answered my colleague’s call sent us a link to use so she could use video to see the wound (a big hug to my colleague helping me and who really really was squeezy at the sight of blood). Establishing I didn’t need an ambulance, she asked my colleague to call me a taxi to the legevakt and instructed us on how to bandage and hold my thumb before I could get actual assistance. That done, my colleague helped me down the mountain (by cable car huh, it took three minutes) with all my stuff and put me in the taxi, direction the legevakt.

I obviously didn’t think of documenting my stay there, so here is a picture from Google Maps.

There, I had to explain one more time at the door who I was and what I was doing here before taking a seat and wait. I also took a number, quite stupidely (sorry, I’m a bit tired and in shock as it’s midnight at that time) so I got kind of yelled at by a nurse there. « I told you to just sit down, why do you that? ». Me: « Just to make sure??? ». Anyway, went back to sitting and waiting. But like, waiting, I’m not kidding. It was also coincidentally the night we were changing the time, so I pretty much arrived there at midnight, got to see a nurse at 2 am who told me she couldn’t help me with stitches, then a doctor at 5:20 am. The time to get those stitches, a shot of tetanus and waiting a bit, I was out by 6:15 am. By the way, big kuddos to that very nice nurse who shortened my waiting time after the tetanus shot, and to the student doctor who did my stitches with a lot of talent.

Now, you will tell me, waiting time is normal everywhere in emergency rooms. I was also unlucky to come at a very busy time there, with all the drunk idiots coming for having fallen or hurt their head. Which stresses out on the big shortage of medical professionals in the country! According to this study by Statistics Norway, only 77% of the people with a medical education are currently employed in health and social services. There is a slight increase of personnel from 2021 to 2022, 464 588 employees to 473 129 last year. It’s far from enough in a country like Norway that holds more than 5.5 million inhabitants as of 2023. And it’s hard to explain, as the Norwegian healthcare system is prompt to digitalize to prevent useless tasks for its personnel, has a flat structure and prevents overtime as much as possible.

Who you gonna call? Picture taken from Bergens Tidende

I don’t want to linger in details on the Norwegian health system in its totality here, but I have two other pointers. The first one is the payment, which is immediate and doesn’t come by the mail two weeks later. You leave, you pay, end of story. And you pay quite a lot! Luckily, if you reach a certain amount of money spent in public services health services, you get an exemption card that says you don’t have to pay until the end of the calendar year.

The other thing was to get what we call a « sykemelding », or sick leave. Here, doctors are famous for not wanting to give any to employees, thinking about the general economy or having little knowledge to what our jobs entail. In that case, I’m right-handed and I work as a waitress, which brings with it lots of contact with water and having to flex your fingers as well as carry weight. The legevakt doctor thought I could go back one day and a half later to work without any issue, while I couldn’t even open a bottle of water with my right hand for two days. I had to go see my general doctor, or « fastlege », in order to get a few days off work in order to make sure I could at least be useful at something when I was back. Which cost me more money, too.

Of course, I’m complaining because I don’t generally have great experience with medical care in Norway since I have arrived, but it is a quite efficient and professional environment overall. On top of it, my thumb is looking better by the day and the scar is super thin. Quite an exemplary work!

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