Health Minister Bent Høie confirmed on Thursday the emergency departments at Rjukan and Kragerø hospitals were set to close, in line with recommendations by Telemark Hospital and regional health authority Helse Sør-Øst. There were four emergency departments for 170,000 residents in the Telemark region, and Høie said they needed to be streamlined to improve competence and quality.
“I have upheld the decision from the board of Helse Sør-Øst to close down the emergency departments in Kragerø and Rjukan,” Høie, a Conservative, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It is a conclusion that I believe is the best to safeguard patient safety and quality for the whole Telemark population, by gathering emergency functions in Skien and Notodden. At the same time I have also said that Telemark Hospital must update and renew their plans for their pre-hospital services, those emergency functions outside the hospitals, because those offered in Rjukan will be closed down.”
The mayors of Tinn and Kragerø municipalities held faint hopes the services could be saved, when an alternative proposal is presented to parliament later in June. The two Conservative mayors accused Høie of breaching a promise to his own party, and said they would push for support from Labour to secure a parliamentary majority. Labour indicated on Thursday it is unlikely to back the proposal, even though the party’s Telemark branch supported it.
Høie said he had held extensive meetings with the mayors. “I have listened to what they have said, and they have fought like lions for their hospital services,” he said. “But I have investigated the case and have been forced to consider what is best for the safety and quality of the whole county.”
There will still be outpatient and day treatment programs in Rjukan and Kragerø.