Doctor Who in Greenland

doctor who greenlandFor anyone that intends to move to Greenland, it’s probably worth knowing how the hospital system works around here. Two words: Doctor Who.

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?

12 thoughts on “Doctor Who in Greenland

  1. Pingback: What no one tells you about moving to Greenland | The Fourth Continent

    • There is a great difference between the rich and poor in India, right? There was a scandal a few years ago when a politician tried to jump the queue and not go through proper channels. People were not very happy with that special treatment when it was exposed! 🙂 India, what an interesting place to live!

      • Canada (where I’m from originally) has universal health care… which means a lot of it is ‘free’ but there are often long waiting periods.

        Here in India it is all about the money honey… You can even have an x-ray machine brought to your doorstep in under an hour!

        • Hi Carissa sorry I’m so late in replying. This is more of a hobby and as the days get darkers I’m sleeping so much these days.

          I presume that it’s all about the money in India because of their social system? There seems to be a very great disparity between the rich and the poor over there. What can money not buy over there…? =)


          • Chill! Blogs should just be for fun… And I remember waking in darkness and it again being dark as I walked out of office… it does make you want to hibernate like a bear. 🙂

            As for India – What social system? There really isn’t any kind of effective safety net in India. So you are right – there is a great disparity which also means that medical care is equally tiered to who has / does not have money.

  2. Wow, sounds really brutal! Calling time between 8:15 and 8:30? That is just insane. How happy I am now here to have okayish doctors even though I might have to wait in the “waiting room” for a couple of hours, at least I am not on some insane waiting list on a phone :p

    • Well, it is interesting because I think the hospital system here is one that people love to hate. But if outsiders criticise it, then many will defend it. It is after all free. I was surprised by some comments I got on Facebook in reaction to the article…. More pride than expected!

      I think the doctors I’ve had have been in general very professional, so all in all I’m happy for the system that seems to work here in Greenland.

      • Well, here and in Finland its for “free” as well as the employer pays the monhtly fee however you can go whenver you want to the doc except weekends and wednesday afternoons :p
        People somehow always seem to defend their systems, no matter our faulty they might be. For example the finnish system is rather crappy but still you will find tons of people defending it

  3. From the sounds of it, that is a generous healthcare system. In Australia, if you’re Australian then your healthcare is partially subsidised. If memory served me correct, I paid $35 the last time I saw the doctor for a consultation after I showed them my healthcare card. As for medicine, I believe we pay the full price for it and I’ve never gotten any discounts on them, ranging from cold tablets, panadol that you can get from the supermarket to the medicines that can only be bought with prescriptions.

    Waiting time to see a doctor is horribly long here in Australia, for both bulk-billed and private clinics. Call a clinic in the morning and the receptionist will tell you that they booked for most of the day and you can come in an wait for a doctor for an indefinite amount of time.

    • Hey Mabel, I think you are correct. If we call for a normal appointment we will only really get a time the following week or week after that. If there is an emergency though you need to call another specific number and you are able to visit that same day. I was surprised by the free medicine!!

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