Icelandic Language Blog

Hospitals and clinics Posted by on Nov 1, 2011 in Icelandic customs

If you need medicine or a doctor, I’ve been advised to go to a private doctor instead of someone at a community clinic. I went to a clinic the other day anyway (the cost was 1.000kr for the visit versus 6.000 to 8.000kr) and unfortunately had bad results. The doctor didn’t know as much English, tried to rush through the session, ignored parts of what I was saying, and after jumping to conclusions (without warning or giving time to object she called a long series of people to find out some small info that I had already known and then blamed me for not telling her beforehand). The session ended with only one of my problems resolved, when that one wasn’t even the most pressing one. The person who warned me against going to a clinic said they had the same results with their doctor there.

Landspitali is the hospital I live near by, and I’ve been there a few times. That hospital, a private doctor I’ve been to, and my local clinic all have everything in Icelandic. Of course everyone can speak English, but you might find that some of the worst English-speakers in Iceland are employed at the service desks.

This is my local health clinic (I don’t have photos of the main hospital). The doctor of mine who recommended I go there is the one who told me where it was, but there’s a website too.

Clinic receipt, I paid for an EKG and a blood test and together that amounted to 1.640kr.

This is the instructions to give to the people doing the blood test. They could do the EKG at the clinic, but for the blood test (blóðprufa / blóðsýni) I had to go to the hospital.

If you get a prescription from a doctor, you can either get one on paper for a specific pharmacy or get an electronic one that works for any pharmacy. I get electronic ones, so that means as soon as the doctor prescribes medicine or a refill for medicine, it instantly shows up in the computer of every pharmacy and they can find it by searching for my kennitala. On the reverse side, the only information the pharmacy gets about the doctor who prescribed you is their name. So if you lose your doctor’s contact information, the pharmacy doesn’t have any of that and can’t help you (and most likely the doctor’s secretary isn’t allowed to give out his phone number or Email randomly).

These are stickers on the bag that your medicine from the pharmacy is put in. They print them on the spot. You can get your medicine at a pharmacy the same day as your doctor gives you the prescription, if you’re getting something common. All medicine will have instructions and warnings in Icelandic, legally they have to do that so all citizens can read it. Printed on your box/container of medicine itself will be a similar sticker with your name and how much/often you’re supposed to take the medicine, which will most likely be in Icelandic.

If you’re lucky there will be an off-brand medicine that’s cheaper than what your doctor prescribed, but is still the exact same thing. In the photo above, I think one of my medicines turned out to be completely free for me (if I’m remembering right). Everyone at the pharmacy will speak English. I even heard an old man complain last time I was there that he went to another pharmacy and the staff didn’t even speak Icelandic, just English.

Everyone is covered with the same insurance any Icelander gets, after they’ve been living in Iceland for over six months. I’m not sure if Nordic citizens are automatically insured without a waiting period, but it’s possible.

So far at everywhere I’ve been, making an appointment has been free. But once you show up to the appointment you’ll have to pay at the check-in desk or during the session with the doctor itself, if not then a bill will be sent to your house and you can pay it at any bank. One private doctor really surprised me by having me pay via debit card right at his desk, with the card-reader on the windowsill.

The health clinic texts you the day before to remind you what time your appointment is, but so far with me everyone else has either called me personally to ask how the medicine is working and when my next appointment should be, had me call them, or their secretary called me to tell me when my appointment was.

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About the Author: sequoia

I try to write about two-thirds of the blog topics on cultural aspects and one-third on the language, because there's much more out there already on the language compared to daily life information. I try to stay away from touristy things because there's more of that out there than anything else on Iceland, and I feel like talking about that stuff gives you the wrong impression of Iceland.