The Norwegian government ordered doctors back to work on Sunday, just before a strike by 23 doctors in emergency clinics around the country was about to expand and enter its second week. Some small communities could have been left without local medical care if the strike had continued, claimed government minister Henrik Asheim.
He admitted that it was difficult to stop a legal labour conflict, suggesting that the two sides had not met their responsibility to settle their differences. He claimed that he had no choice but to step in and end the strike, since no settlement was in sight.
The numbers of striking doctors involved were not large, but when small towns like Karasjok only have four doctors and one resident on staff at local community medical center, “half of our staff would be out on strike,” Mayor Svein Atle Somby told state broadcaster NRK.
The doctors were striking over excessive overtime demands, both as primary care physicians and mandatory shifts at the emergency center. The strike has at least highlighted the problem nationally, while local officials claim they don’t have large enough budgets to hire more doctors for public health care.