Weekly Highlight: 22.04.2008

Denmark:

Organ donor rules increase death count
22.04.2008

While its Nordic neighbours have improved their donor transplant figures a growing number of Danes die waiting for a new organ.
As long as it is up to Danes themselves to sign up to be organ donors, Denmark’s figures for people who die on waiting lists will continue to rise.
A new study from organ procurement co-operative Scandiatransplant shows that Denmark lags far behind its neighbours in saving lives through organ transplants, with waiting lists that are much longer than its Nordic neighbours.
And the reason, according to both Scandiatransplant and numerous medical experts, is the country’s donor volunteer programme.
In Finland, Sweden and Norway, adult citizens are automatically registered as organ donors and must themselves contact the authorities if they wish to be taken off the donor list. In Denmark, citizens must sign up to be organ donors – and often do not.
‘Donor number are increasing in the other countries while it is falling in Denmark,’ Preben Kirkegaard, liver surgeon at University State Hospital, told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. ‘And a larger donor pool is crucial if we’re going to make a dent in the waiting lists.’
The number of Danes who die waiting for a lung, for example, is equal to that of all three other Nordic countries combined. Those countries have also reduced their organ transplant waiting times while in Denmark the period continues to grow longer.
And the lack of donors is glaringly obvious in the number of organs Denmark imports and sends out to other countries for transplants. Hearts are a prime example, as between 2000 and 2006 Denmark received 44 hearts from foreign countries while exporting only six.
The Nordic countries successes were based on the Spanish model of the self opt-out, instituted some years ago. And instead of using millions on advertising campaigns to lure donors, Spain created a central governmental agency to handle all the nation’s transplant activities. The country now leads the world in the number of potential organ donors.
Yet despite the alarming figures here in Denmark, a Berlingske Research survey indicated that 10 out of 13 members of parliament’s health care committee are against changing the volunteer donor rules. (RC)

Finland:

Report: Depression Costs Society 1bn a Year
Published 17.04.2008, 18.36

The costs of clinical depression to Finnish society are higher than previously thought — about one billion euros annually, according to a report broadcast Thursday by YLE television’s current affairs programme “Silminnäkijä” (“Eyewitness”).
That figure includes the costs of disability pensions, sick leave, rehabilitation, medications and decline in productivity. In the past, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health have estimated the cost to be about half a billion annually. However its figures only included disability pensions and sick leave costs.
Every year, about 200,000 people in Finland are diagnosed with clinical depression. The number of people granted early retirement because of depression has increased tenfold since 1985.
The use of antidepressant drugs has also risen tenfold over the past two decades. They are now used by nearly 400,000 Finns, about seven percent of the population.
Meanwhile, the number of suicides has dropped by about one third. It peaked around 1990 at about 1,500 a year. Over the last three years it has been about 1,000.

Netherlands:

Obesity costs €600m in absenteeism
Monday 21 April 2008

Overweight workers are costing Dutch industry €600m a year, according to health ministry figures, quoted in the economists’ magazine ESB, reports news agency ANP.
People who are too heavy are more likely to be off sick and take longer sick leave, the magazine is reported as saying.

Norway:

Record number of visiting workers
First published: 18 Apr 2008, 16:10

Over 85,000 foreigners had legal work permits in Norway in March, a huge jump from the same time last year.
Polish workers are the largest group of “foreign workers” in Norway, according to the country’s immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet).
This has led to many Polish workers applying to bring their families in to Norway, said the UDI.
In the first three months of the year, 1,015 family immigrant permissions were granted to Polish citizens. This is almost double the number in the same period of 2007.
In total, 4,800 have been granted permission so far this year, 25 percent more than during the same period last year.

Sweden:

Nurses demonstrate for higher pay as strike looms
Published: 20 Apr 08 12:14 CET

Nurses took to the streets in Stockholm and Gothenburg on Sunday to demonstrate for higher pay. A strike beckons on Monday as mediators called off talks on Saturday.
Negotiations between healthcare employers and unions broke off in deadlock on Saturday afternoon. A strike now seems inevitable on Monday as nurses and other healthcare professionals demand higher pay.
The Swedish Association of Healthcare Professionals (Vårdförbundet) sat down in a final attempt to secure a deal with the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) on Saturday.
According to SALAR’s press spokesperson Claes Bertilson, by late afternoon negotiations had broken down in stalemate.
“This means that everything indicates that a strike will break out on Monday.”
Around 1,000 healthcare professionals marched from Götaplatsen to Gustaf Adolfs torg in Gothenburg’s town centre as a show of union strength in preparation for the pending strike. Among them were nurses Evelyn Sjöberg and Marianne Persson.
“We are ready for conflict but it is clear that something is wrong when one has to go out on strike,” the nurses said to news agency TT as the demonstration wound its way through the western Swedish town.
The demonstrators held up banners bearing slogans such as “We want fair pay,” “We are worth it,” and “Undervalued but vital.”
“People study to become nurses today, but it doesn’t pay. At the same time we have to accept substantial responsibility.” said Evelyn Sjöberg.
If the strike is not avoided at the eleventh hour then 3,500 nurses will go on strike across Sweden on Monday. This will have an immediate effect on scheduled healthcare, such as the need to re-schedule planned operations. Problems for the third-party to the conflict–the patients–are expected to be substantial.

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