The towns and villages of Greenland are separated by great distances, and transport between them can only take place by plane, helicopter or boat. If you are moving to a peripheral region, it is therefore wise to check whether the healthcare service level available there matches your physical condition. Besides the problems of expensive patient transports and long distances, the Greenlandic health service is also challenged by a shortage of staff, particularly in the most sparsely-populated areas.
The healthcare services in Greenland
A number of services are provided, which are free at point of use to everyone with permanent residence in Greenland. If a doctor has prescribed treatment, and the service is not available nearby, you have the right to have the transport covered to the nearest hospital.
The public services which are free at point of use, and which are to the greatest possible extent accessible by everyone with residence in Greenland, are:
- Medical treatment by a doctor or specialist
- Hospital admission and stays
- Special care for pregnant women and at childbirth, and healthcare for new parents
- Nursing care in healthcare institutions or in the home
- Preventive health examinations
- Vaccinations within the vaccination programme, and in special cases
- Prescription medicine
The geographical conditions in Greenland can impede access to healthcare for people living in isolated and peripheral areas. It can be both difficult and expensive to travel from a village to the nearest health station or regional hospital, or to the National Hospital in Nuuk. In some cases, it may also be necessary to send patients to Iceland or Denmark for treatment.
Consequently, all persons with permanent residence in Greenland are entitled to doctor-prescribed transport in connection with treatment, illness or injury.
Attempts are made to provide equal access to healthcare for all through a range of health consultations:
- If you live in a village with less than 50 inhabitants, you have access to a village consultation without telemedical equipment. The consultation is staffed between 12-30 hours a week by a healthcare assistant. There are also visits by healthcare professionals 2-4 times a year.
- If you live in a village with between 50-200 inhabitants, you have access to a village consultation with telemedical equipment, which is staffed by a healthcare assistant 30-40 hours a week. The telemedical equipment enables remote consultations to take place with medical personnel at the nearest regional hospital. There are also visits by healthcare professionals 3-4 times a year.
- If you live in a village with between 200-500 inhabitants, you have access to a healthcare station with telemedical equipment, staffed by a nurse and healthcare assistants. There are also visits by healthcare professionals 4-8 times a year.
- If you live in a town with 500-1,200 inhabitants, you have access to a small healthcare centre, staffed either by a permanent doctor or by ‘locum tenens’ doctors.
- If you live in a town with more than 1,200 inhabitants, you have access to a larger healthcare centre staffed by doctors, specialists and nurses.
If you live in the town in your region which has the greatest population, you have access to a regional hospital staffed by doctors, nurses, health nurses, healthcare assistants, midwives, physiotherapists, bioanalysts, and other healthcare professionals. The National Hospital also has additional specialties and functions. Greenland has four regional hospitals, in Aasiaat, Ilulissat, Sisimiut and Qaqortoq, respectively, as well as a national hospital in Nuuk.
There are public dental clinics in towns with more than 500 inhabitants, which undertake ordinary dental examinations, root canal work, caries treatment, orthodontics, denture work and to some extent specialised dental treatment.
Dentists make regular visits to schools and kindergartens and provide the children, staff and parents with advice on toothbrushing and dental hygiene.
All but the smallest villages receive at least one annual visit from a dentist, which is announced in the village in advance to allow appointments to be made.
There are also private dental clinics in Nuuk.
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