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For Greenlanders needing treatment for a number of serious illnesses the only option has for years been to travel to Copenhagen.
That, however, has often proved problematic for patients who must often spend days away from home for minor treatments. For Greenlandic authorities it has been expensive; a 2011 Deloitte report found that for a period of 15 years, Greenland had potentially paid as much as 20 million kroner ($4 million) too much each year. The report concluded that Danish doctors, in 81% of cases, classified Greenlandic patients as needing highly specialised care. According to Greenlandic medical officials, the number was no higher than 50%.
Now, though, an agreement between the Greenlandic and Icelandic health services means that patients will increasingly be able to be sent to Reykjavik instead.
Greenlandic patients, particularly those from the eastern coast, which is just two hours away by air, have already been receiving treatment in Iceland for a number of years. With the agreement, signed earlier this month, the services available will be extended to non-acute treatments such as kidney stones.
While the costs of treatment will be comparable with the amount charged Greenlandic authorities by the Danish health service, officials in Greenland expect the closer distance to translate to lower costs for travel and lodging.
Agreements about the specific types of illnesses that Greenlanders can receive treatment for are in the works.
Should treatments that require a long in-patient stay be included, it is expected that Self-Rule officials will establish Greenlandic support groups in Reykjavik.