Residents of Oslo, along with representatives of the city committees of various political parties and trade unions, are opposing the Norwegian government’s plans to close down Ullevål Hospital. On Tuesday, February 8, a march was held from the Oslo City Hall to the Norwegian parliament to protest the Labor-Center government’s threat to override the local authority and shut down the country’s largest emergency hospital. The march was also attended by doctors, nurses and other staff of the hospital. The protesters claimed that both the Labor Party and the Center Party – partners in the incumbent coalition government in Norway – have betrayed their earlier promises to respect local democracy and save the hospital.
According to reports, negating the Oslo City Council’s appeal, the Norwegian government has decided to shut down the Ullevål Hospital and agreed to construct a new high-rise hospital adjacent to the national hospital in Oslo’s Gaustad area. There are plans to revive Oslo’s old Aker Hospital, farther to the east, as the main hospital to serve the city’s residents. However, the majority of Oslo residents and the local committees of major political parties, irrespective of their political differences, have unanimously opposed the government’s proposal.
Residents are concerned about the government’s plan to split up Ullevål’s highly specialized medical professionals between hospitals at Gaustad and Aker, especially the renowned services of Ullevål’s emergency care and trauma unit. There is also criticism that the site chosen at Gaustad for a new hospital is too small and lacks room for expansion. The protesters allege that the government has favored regional state health bureaucrats who have wanted to phase out Ullevål for years in order to sell its assets in central Oslo to real estate groups.
Oslo mayor Marianne Borgen from the Socialist Left Party (SV) stated that Norway’s health minister Ingvild Kjerkol is prepared to use state coercion to close down Ullevål Hospital and build a new hospital at Gaustad.
Mari Rise Knutsen from the Rødt (Red) party in Oslo said, “we in Norway’s most populous valley lost our local hospital 10 years ago, when Aker was laid down. There has never been room for residents from Grorud valley in the crowded Akershus University Hospital in Viken. If we get urgently ill, it is never good to not know where the ambulance will drive. Now the Minister of Health Kjerkhol continues to overpower local communities and local democracy, and will carry out the closure of Ullevål and let the property for housing speculators.”
“All unions, the population of Oslo, and the elected in our city say no. Common sense has prevailed here. But now the government threatens with state regulation. We can’t accept that!”