Firstly, there are no private doctors or medical practices in Greenland. Healthcare is mostly free, paid for and provided by the State.
Calling a doctor in Nuuk
If you get sick one day, you have to call the hospital. They have a free telephone number that you can call ’80 11 11′. You can only call between 08.15 – 08.30.
When you call you will probably end up on a waiting list. The random times I’ve called when the clock has ticked to 8.15 I’ve made it to number 70, 90 or even 110 on the waiting list. You are normally guaranteed to wait at least half an hour.
You will then get a time to visit the doctor. In many workplaces, it is generally accepted that you can go to an appointment during work hours, and some workplaces will even pay for the time that you take to visit the doctor because it is so inflexible.
Random Doctor Who
You will then be allocated a random doctor to visit. I’ve never had the same doctor twice, but then again I haven’t had too many doctor consultations. The last time I visited, the doctor told me that he normally told his patients to ring and ask after him if they wanted to see him again, and then he would call him back to arrange a time. The unfortunate thing was that he was leaving to move onto another rotation in another hospital in another country, so I was unlikely to see him again.
Greenland has a shortage of doctors, so they fly them in generally from Denmark. Some of the doctors are quite young and only stay for a short period of time due to their need to undertake different rotations and try different specialisations in their early years. So it is possible to have the same doctor twice, but you have to know how to work the system a bit, and get one who stays a little longer. Generally, though, if you don’t ask for a particular doctor, you will be allocated a random one.
Anyway the whole system takes a bit of getting used to for people who move here. The plus side is that you get qualified doctors in a modern facility where the emphasis is on treating the patients. Medicine is free, and that you can talk through your symptoms with the doctor first before confirming an appointment. There is also research about Greenland health issues being conducted as well.
If you’re sick in a settlement
If you live in the settlements it is a different process. There are no hospitals in the settlements but they have some well-equipped health centers with health assistants who are able to help with basic treatments. They use Tele-Medicine technology which is like a virtual doctor machine, that has the ability to transmit crucial data to a larger hospital such as the one in Nuuk. If it is a serious illness or emergency, then you will be transported by helicopter to the main hospital in Nuuk like they did in this emergency operation.
So yes… this is really Doctor Who! For more information about the health system the hospital website is available in Greenlandic and Danish.
What’s the health system like where you live? Any quirks?