Speech

The Prime Minister of Denmark Poul Nyrup Rasmussens speech at the International Council of Nurses 22. kongres in Forum on 10 June 2001

Madame President, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Nurses – welcome to Denmark.

It is always a pleasure to meet nurses – especially when you are well.

Though – when I give it another thought – it is also a pleasure when you are ill.

A wellknown Danish politician, who is being treated for cancer, keeps saying: Thank You, God, that you invented the nurses. And I agree.

May I say that you are the ones who light up, comfort, explain ... nurse.

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I am very, very delighted for having been given the opportunity to address a congress as health issues are a centrepieces in my government’s policy.

I believe that good health service is one of the corner stones in every wellfunctioning society, and it is a central aspect of the Scandinavian welfare model.

Dear nurses – in my view a good health service is based on three fundamental pillars:

The first one is free and equal access for all citizens to health care services. Not for those who have money. Not for those who were lucky. Not for those who could plan for it. But for every citizen. Equal access.

My second fundamental pillar is a high quality of treatment and care.

And my third pillar is the best possible use of the resources available at any time.

It is a captivating game to list such goals. You know that and I know that. But I believe that most of you who are present here today have experienced how difficult it is to put them into practice.

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Here in my country, may I assure you, that when you are here all these days, you will have confirmed that we will never give up these fundamental principles. This society here is based on its very fundamental values which tells us that no matter where you come from, no matter who you are, you should have free and equal access to health care here.

It is very encouraging for me to see that you – thousands of nurses from all over the world – have come to ICN’s congress here in Copenhagen in order to learn from each others’ experiences and become acquainted with new developments in and within nursing. That is the only way to improve and to get new inspiration. You will get a chance to meet some of the worlds most well-educated nurses here – at least so the British say: They want to employ Danish nurses.

I hope – and that is a personal remark – that for the latest election in Great Britain, they can make their own nurses well educated and many, many more of them.

And I know that they will do their utmost, and that you will do so.

You will also, dear nurses, meet nurses with very hard workingdays and with high ambitions. The Danish Government wants to meet their demands for better in-service training, their demands for more IT-knowledge, which we consider very important in our aim to get a well functioning wellfaresystem in my country. You will hear about it – that I am sure of.

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I have been told that the ICN represent nurses from more than 120 countries. It was so honouring to see you marching in at the beginning of the congress. The entrance which we just saw underlined in my mind, the fundamental value of your organisation ICN.

In your daily work as nurses you do not always face the same problems – we all know that. But either the same challenges. But I am certain that you will all strive to provide the best possible nursing care to your patients all over the world.

In most cases the best way to meet challenges is through joint efforts. And the sense of community that I feel on a day like this, strengthens my belief that the health care problems of the future can be solved.

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And here, dear nurses, I would like to stress the fact that we here in Denmark, in Europe - a wealthy part of the world – should take upon us a global responsibility for solving – not only our own health care problems – but also helping the third world.

I feel in the interest of ICN’s congress that in today’s world the greatest security risk is not to find among ourselves. The greatest security risk in the world is forgetting third world development. The future of our world’s poorest people is inseparable from our own future.

And may I emphasize:

We won’t get richer because other people get poorer. We won’t get richer by the third world being trapped in poverty. We won’t increase our wealth because the gap between them and us widens. In our interest, but first and foremost in the name humanity and solidarity, we must continue to set an example of excellence, when we look at our financial support to developing countries.

Dear nurses, I will soon, and we will soon take the next big step to develop international cooperation. The Danish Government has been committed to this work for a while, latest under the Danish chairmanship at the OECD summit in Paris last month. Here we agreed to take the first step towards a new – what I call – “Global Deal” – a new international partnership. A new way of thinking. A new international agreement between rich and poor, between all countries, which will set the agenda in Johannesburg next year, when we meet again – 10 years after Rio – to take a further step forward.

Denmark has – as you know – assisted the third world countries in taking advantage of the international patent rules to get essential medicine through to HIV and Aids victims. May I add: I have not been pleased and it has not been pleasant to see how some international pharmaceutical companies operate. But now it seems as if we have established some acceptable principles. It is my strong hope and I believe– and I expect that third world countries will receive cheaper and better medicine in the future.

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And dear nurses, just a few remarks on my own situation, but first and foremost the nurses in Denmark and the situation in the Danish society. In my country we have recently had a number of so called public hearings, where politicians and citizens have debated the well fare society and our health care.

One of the central messages which regard to health care was that patients want continuity and coherence in treatment and care. They want improved information and they want dialogue with health care staff on equal terms.

I would like to stress the significance of these so-called “soft values” which are often overlooked.

I think it is important that the dialogue with patients is undertaken on equal terms and with true consideration for the individual. Contact with patients should be characterised by respect and understanding.

And I know – to all of you nurses – that you all want to realise these goals in practise. Actually it is a little bit misleading to use the term “soft values”. For as a matter of a fact, it requires courage and strength – as you have as well as all your collegues all over the world – to get so close to people as one does, when providing nursing care to the individual patient.

I know that we will set people first here among you and among those who claim care.

Without well functioning nurses, without well functioning working circumstances for nurses, without well functioning careers and dreams and hopes become realized, we will not function in our society.

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I tell you that you all have a busy working day. And we know in my country that many, many nurses have busy, busy working days. This is another great challenge in Denmark. The difficulty of recruiting a sufficient number of qualified health and care staff.

We are all – and I think that we are already facing problems in recruiting medical doctors. And we will face problems in recruiting nurses in the years to come.

This is not only a Danish problem – it has become an international one. Meaning that we must take a sort of ”international competition” into consideration in our aim to solve the domestic recruitment problems.

I hope and I have decided – my Government have done so – that we will give our massive contribution to solve these issues.

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International experiences and international exchange of nurses and nursing knowledge is always desirable – and should of course be supported for the benefit of all countries. Danish nurses are very, very well educated and respected internationally – hopefully - and we – the President of the Danish nurses and I have given each other a hand shake for that, this will continue.

Conventional thinking and outdated demarcations should be overcome when we try to solve the problems, I just indicated. Through open-minded debate and through the use of new ways of sharing knowledge, using supervision, working in teams etc.

These factors are also central in securing and developing motivation. And may I say once again: I am certain that the nurses and the patients will meet and that, thank Good we have well educated nurses, will be the conclusion.

Dear nurses, you have an extensive and a very, very interesting program before you during the coming week. And I am certain that your study visits to the Danish health services during this week will be a source of inspiration. Both for you and for us. I wish you a very, very fruitfull congress. And I am so honoured to have the opportunity to say to the President of the ICN, which I could hear when she came, you also know. I am honoured to know her. You see. When she ask me to do something, not a mountain of the world could blockage me to do it. And you got the same feeling I am sure. So I just want to salute your President also.

Denmark is nice – in summer – if we are getting any summer. But please don’t let this interrupt you. Foreigners talk about our green winter and our white winter – I hope you will experience Danish summerdays and learn a lot and benefit from the fact, that we in Denmark once more thank God for the nurses.

Thank you. And all the best to all of you.