Recently Beth Healy recently spent a season working within the small community of Ittoqortoormiit and has identified a community in need and which might well make for a fascinating elective or locum location for a medic looking for something different – apologies for the unedited nature of this post but the information below paints a very comprehensive picture of whats involved … not for the faint hearted. Contact details are provided at the bottom of the post…
Thanks for offering to spread the word about this elective. I had a fantastic time when I visited earlier this year.
I was fortunate in the fact that I spent 6 weeks working as an intern for tangent expeditions (climb Greenland) so they paid for me to get out there and then I simply got one if the two weekly helicopters out the village. If someone had the time and was keen to do that Paul is currently looking for people.
The charter flight between Iceland and Greenland has been altered to some extent since I went and I am not sure if the full details but basically it makes it more expensive to get to the area. However easy jet now fly to Iceland and Tangent are also doing fairly reasonable chartered flights every week over their season which might be a practical option for anyone planning to go. I am sure Paul walker who runs tangent would be able to advise us on the best way to get there for anyone planning to go. The helicopter is £100 but Paul is also driving over there by snowmobile regularly so there may be a cheaper option to go with him. Also the hospital has its own skidoo so depending who is there they may come pick you up.
It is constable point airport that you need to get to and the village is scorsbysund/ ittoqqortoormiit.
The hospital itself has a very small ward and there are rarely in patients for more than a couple of days. It’s main role is as a gp surgery with the occasional minor op (mainly abortions). However if there is big trauma which is not uncommon it goes straight there before being evacuated by helicopter.
The main things you see are pregnancy counselling (the Inuit get flown by the government to the capital Nuuk 1 month prior to delivery to deliver there – this causes lots of social issues – eg people requesting abortions so they are at home for Christmas), domestic violence, suicide attempts (mainly using guns) and then the traditional gp ailments.
Specialist health visitors come yearly eg dentist, paeds etc. so this is interesting to see as people wait for the right specialist to come to town. Alternatively they get flown to the capital to see specialists or larger operations.
There are lots of quirky things to see such as a skidoo ambulance, blood tests which you can analyse yourself easily etc.
Most of the staff are Danish and come for a few months at a time. There is a Danish nurse who is planning to be there for a few years and is he person who is keen to get others to visit in the future. Most of the Danish people speak excellent English. A greenlandic translator is used in their consultations anyway so being english doesn’t change the dynamic of the consultations. There is usually only 1 doctor, 1 nurse, a pharmacist and some hca/ maintenance people.
Everyone meets and has breakfast in the morning before work starts. It’s very relaxed and there is plenty of opportunity to do your own thing (and go skiing!). I also had the chance to go out hunting and to their parties which was amazing.
Most of the village still work as hunters and go out with dogs an some skidoos. There are often polar bear skins hanging outside people’s houses and you can order seal/ musk ox an polar bear meat from the hospital! Lots of residents have never left the village.
Everyone was very welcoming and good accommodation was provided inside the hospital. You don’t pay to go or for accom etc like you seam to have to do for lots of electives.
When I arrived in Greenland in April temps got to -27 at night, -10 day but by the time I left in June I was wearing joggers and a t shirt so it really depends on when you go as to the temps people can expect.
In addition I ran a project which was a Greenlandic government initiative called the lifestyle cafe – which basically gave healthy living advice, a basic health mot and gave out stepcounters etc. They were keen to keep this going.
I will forward you the email address of the nurse to contact and the email he sent to me which describes the village quite well. I am also happy to act as a go between initially as it may get a bit confusing for Tom (the nurse) if lots of people email him directly.
After consulting the Regional Medical Chief, we are interested in
offering you a stay here with us in the periodmentioned by you.
But must also add that it is at your own expense, as you have written in
your mail, only to put this in place.
I would like to introduce our small community a little to you, so you
can get a picture of what you are going to visit. Ittoqqortoormiit was
founded by fishermen and hunters in the 1920s, and today has today
nearly 500 inhabitants. Through our latest decates, the population has
been on the retreat, because of the lack of possibilities in a community
that grows to modern style.
The city has no real income from production companies or anything like
that, and the fishing has never been a great success here. Oppositethe
hunting, we have muskoxes, icebears, walrus and other animals, for which
they go hunting. Ittoqqortoormiit is placed at the entrance of the
greates fjord system in the world, and the greatest national park is
just north of here.
In the city there is one store, and a few small shops. A Postoffice and
a bank is fund in the store. We have to yearly arrivels of supply ships,
midt / end july, and the last end of september, that means you will be
visiting us just before the first ship this year and 8 month after the last.
The hospital providesmedical care for the population here in town, and
for Constabel Point, we have one doctor , which mostly has a short time
contract, two nurses, a dolmatcher (danish/greenlandic) and 6 more or
less uneducateded (in healthcare) staff, which are taking care of
inhospitalized patient, under spuervision from the nurses and the doctor.
We do not have any kind of specialization, we mostly do general practice
work, very small surgery if needed, and can only provide critically
medical care untill an evacuation can be established. Your stay here
would give us the opportunity to do a little ekstra for the people here,
such as lifestyle inquiry of hypertension, diabetes and cronical
I will talk more with the Regional Medical Chief for the specifictaskes
for your stay, as soon as you can provide me with more detailed
information of when you will be here and when you are supposed to leave.
You are most welcome to take contact with me, if you need more
informations of any kind, and i will do my best to send it to you.
**NOTE** This article was first published in November 2012. Some of the names & links are no longer associated with the organisations listed above. Note also that non-Scandinavians are likely to find it difficult to secure placement here.