Pharmaceutical Needs in Laponia…

…and the small distant villages of this area have a small but significant roll in many people’s lives through the years. And although this significance has dwindled through modernization and change of needs, the proposed changes concerning the restructuring and selling of the state owned Apoteket, or pharmaceutical organization, should be taken with concern.

Because of the distances from Jokkmokk and the need for medical supplies in the mountains, there was an organized system that provided the most necessary supplies to people. Of course, central to this service working depended upon the pharmacist in Jokkmokk. It was the pharmacist’s local knowledge of people’s needs together with a high professional responsibility and attitude that allowed this service to function well.

resize-of-padjelanta1972-copy.jpg>Photo:Medical supplies were available in the mountains for Laponia backpackers in 1972

I was fortunate to have had parent-in-laws that operated the pharmacy in Jokkmokk, Gun & Nils Hövenmark, and had the opportunity to be exposed to discussions concerning Apoteket. And, coming from an American “drugstore” culture, I acquired a better respect for medicines and pharmaceuticals than had I not have had this alternative.

Each spring, Gun would go through a list of needed supplies to the mountains and prepare transport boxes that would be shipped to strategic places in Laponia. The supplies were mostly basic first-aid things, but she also prepared simple salves and medicines for blisters, cramps, heat exposure and especially for diarrhea, which came about from people drinking water that may have had a dead reindeer in it upstream. She would take time to visit the distant villages up to and including Kvikkjokk and conduct an inventory of available supplies each year in order to provide an extended service. Small pharmacy outposts.

She personally knew everybody who lived in the Saami villages and understood their medical conditions and needs. Should anyone in the mountains run out of a medicine they needed, Gun could prepare an emergency prescription and have this sent through a series of buses, boats and airplanes to arrive at the right village for this person. A phenomenal feat when you consider the distances, weather, communication processes and complications.
resize-of-padjelanta1972_01-copy.jpgPhoto: 1972-Returning from a calf-marking with a young Lennart Åstot steering the boat.

As a cabin warden in Staloluokta, in the beginning of the 1990’s, we had a large box of medical items that were available for needy hikers. This was prepared by the pharmacy in Jokkmokk and was always appreciated by both wardens, local Saami villagers and tourists through the summer months.

How it is now? I’m not quite sure!

I do know that January 18, of next year, a commission will propose the selling and commercializing of the Swedish Apoteket and, later, give suggestions of selling medicines through private companies like supermarkets, grocery stores and gas stations. An American “drugstore” situation.

It’s very unfortunate that political leaders of Sweden are of so low caliber and competency that, instead of solving problems within an appreciated service like Apoteket and initiating correct changes to increase quality, they just sell-it-off, giving the problem back to taxpayers. Should this procedure turn out like the Swedish postal service, with postal services through the local grocery store etc., Swedish people will again be faced with huge problems and discontent at losing a professional service. Of course, grocery stores will be happy with more potential profits.

I, for one, am not looking forward in going to our local grocery store and dealing with a pimply-faced, overweight girl with pins in her face, at a crowded cash register and ask for information about a prescription for blood pressure knowing that this girl has totally no comprehension of anything other than taking money and giving a receipt.

Medicines are important, even in the mountains. For Gun & Nils, they’re probably rolling in their grave. The misuse or misinformation of medicines and pharmaceuticals can be highly damaging. Please, consider boycotting these services at stores or gas stations and make a difference.

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