Iceland hospital turns garage into emergency department

A screengrab of the new garage ward Image copyright RUV
Image caption Hospital bosses say the garage conversion shows how serious the capacity problem has become

Staff at Iceland's main hospital have turned a garage into a makeshift emergency department to deal with overcrowding, it's reported.

The new garage ward at Reykjavik's National University Hospital has space for six patients, and has been fitted out with hospital beds and privacy screens, Iceland's public broadcaster RUV reports. It's hoped the move will ease the situation within the main emergency department, where dozens of patients have been forced to wait in the corridors due to lack of capacity.

"You might think this is some kind of joke, but it's about as far from a joke as it could be," Hilmar Kjartansson, the hospital's chief of emergency medicine tells the site. "We are just trying to adapt to a ridiculous situation." He says that while housing patients in a garage is not acceptable, neither is keeping them in the corridors.

In January, Iceland Monitor reported that the hospital had been running at more than 100% capacity for "some time", making it more difficult to deal with spikes in admissions caused by seasonal bugs or winter ice-related injuries.

The Reykjavik Grapevine website notes that a petition calling for the government to increase healthcare spending has now become the most-signed in Icelandic history, with more than 83,000 signatures. Iceland spends about 9% of its GDP on health services, according to the World Bank - roughly the same as the UK. The petition calls for that to be increased to 11%.

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