Indsigt: Åbningstale ved Arktisk Sundhedsminister

Åbningstale ved Arktisk Sundhedsminister

Until this year, the structure of the health care system has been unchanged from the 1920s, despite the advantages provided by modern transportation and a well-developed telecommunication system.
(Talen findes kun på engelsk).

Onsdag d. 16. februar 2011
Agathe Fontain, medlem af Landstinget for Inuit Ataqatigiit
Emnekreds: Arktis, Sundhedsvæsenet, Telemedicin.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Greenlandic Government it is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to this meeting in Nuuk, our capital. I am very happy to be hosting this important and interesting event together with my colleague from Denmark, the Danish Minister of the Interior and Health, Bertel Haarder.

During my time as the Minister of Health in Greenland, it has been my aim to develop the contact with other Arctic states and the people who live in the Arctic region. As stated in the meeting material, circumpolar counties and regions share similar health priorities and face significant logistical, financial, and technological challenges in overcoming health disparities.

The objective of this meeting is to enhance circumpolar partnerships in sharing good practices, building evidence-based health care and improving policies to address emerging health problems in the Arctic.

Greenland is characterized by a small population living scattered along the coastline in about 80 towns and settlements. Despite Greenlanders as other Arctic Indigenous populations are challenged by a dual disease pattern, the physical health of the Greenlandic population is better today than ever before.

Greenland took over the responsibility for the health care system in 1992. Through agreements, cooperation on more specialized treatment exists with Denmark and now also with Iceland.

The health care system is obligated to deliver equal care to all citizens regardless of their place of residence. Even if the objective of the health care system is to meet health care needs at the lowest relevant level of specialization, we use more than 6% of the total health budget for transport of patients.

Until this year, the structure of the health care system has been unchanged from the 1920s, despite the advantages provided by modern transportation and a well-developed telecommunication system.

Many factors did point to the need for a new structure in the health care system. The increasing public demand for a health care system that can provide specialized treatment, the difficult recruitment of professionals, and the economic burden of round-the-clock maintenance of staff on duty serving very small population all contributed.

A long-term investment has been made to intensify the education of local staff. Still, the health care system will be dependent on recruiting specialized staff for many more years to come.

During recent years, recruitment has become more difficult. Today, the lack and the rapid turnover of professionals is a threat to continuity in care, the surveillance of health and services, and to preventive efforts.

Today the Health care system consists of 5 regions instead of 17 districts. The new structure aims at easing access to health care for the population as a whole, but also to give local staff more immediate access to consulting a more specialized or experienced professional. One of the foundations of the regionalization was to improve communication by using telemedicine.

Today all hospitals, health care centres and clinics in villages with more than 50 inhabitants have a “Pipaluk.” This is a telemedicine console with sophisticated monitoring and diagnostic equipment that can share the information it gathers with more than 70 other identical consoles in all parts of the health care system.

Still, the challenges arising from the increase in lifestyle-related diseases and socially related health issues have to be met. In 2007 after years of preparation, the first public health program, Inuuneritta (“let us have a good life”), was proposed. The long process secured broad ownership to the programme among the public.

Inuuneritta points to the joint responsibility for health between the individual and society, and puts emphasis on prevention and health promotion. Most of its focus areas are universal, but it also includes programs on suicide prevention, early interventions for the health and development of children and dental health.

The rapid changing morbidity makes surveillance and monitoring of health as well as research especially important in Greenland. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the existing data on child health are often “inaccurate, incomplete or inconsistent”. In Greenland, the statement can be expanded to health and health care in general. I recognize, that a coherent strategy for the improvement, protection and monitoring of health and health care is urgently needed.

The increase in chronic and lifestyle-related diseases calls for initiatives to improve quality of care and determine best practice. In Greenland, a National program on type 2 diabetes has proven very valuable and the positive experiences are expanded to other chronic diseases. Also health research must include projects on quality, encompassing large, international collaborative projects, but also Nordic and local projects.

We share the same responsibility - to deliver the best possible health care to our populations. The reason why, we are gathered here is to find new ways, to reach out, and gain an even higher standard. I look forward to listen, to learn and to extend our cooperation in the future.

Læs også: Telemedicin har vi haft i mange år