Senior consultant in Stavanger
When Roar Strøm began work as a senior consultant and head of the surgical department in Stavanger in the autumn of 1945, it was obvious that he was a competent and clinically well-trained surgeon. Like most surgeons of the time, he was a generalist whose expertise spanned the entire field. With his doctorate, he also had formal academic competence.
There were two public hospitals in Stavanger: the municipal Stavanger Hospital, which first and foremost served the city residents, and the county Rogaland Hospital, which was primarily responsible for the more rural populations of Jæren and Ryfylke area. These public hospitals were supplemented by the Norwegian Women´s Public Health Association's maternity clinic, which was staffed by gynaecologists in private practice, and the catholic St. Franciskus hospital, run mainly by otolaryngologists in private practice. In addition, there were smaller municipal hospitals in both Sandnes and Egersund.
Strøm was a senior consultant at Rogaland Hospital, which was established in 1927. He arrived at a hospital that was still relatively modern, but which – after operating for almost 20 years – required many improvements and renovations to be "up to date", he said, and he hoped to be able to achieve this by degrees (17). When Strøm took up his position, there were only two senior consultants in the hospital: himself in the surgical department and Roald Opsahl (1899–1980) in the medical department. Shortly after taking up his post, Strøm gave an account to the press and stated that he was already aware of the high surgical standards in Rogaland and the rich surgical traditions associated with this hospital and the district as a whole (17). He made reference to his predecessors in the city, among them senior consultant Axel Cappelen (1858–1919).
Strøm gave assurances that he was enjoying his role and said that there was a great deal to be done. Each year, about 1 500 operations were performed at the hospital, he informed them. There were five doctors in the department, and he hoped to take on another soon. The hospital had a capacity of 220–250 beds, divided roughly equally between the two departments. However, due to a shortage of doctors and nurses, it was not possible to run at full capacity (17).
The lack of nurses was a major problem. By April 1946, the nursing crisis at hospitals was apparently more severe than the public knew. There was great jubilation, therefore, when the Red Cross Nursing School opened in Stavanger that same year (18). Three years later, the first cohort graduated. Strøm was chairman of the school board, and after ten years he was able to report that the school had trained 204 nurses (19).
Strøm was also engaged in tasks outside the department. He was interested in anything that could help foster interaction between doctors working in hospitals and doctors outside. He was excited about the idea of starting a medical association in Stavanger, believing the time was ripe for such an endeavour. The association would enable colleagues to meet to discuss scientific topics and demonstrate different techniques, and would lay the foundations for close collaboration in the medical community (17).
After 10 years at the hospital, Strøm was able to look back on a great transformation. The number of patients had increased from 3 000 to 5 000 annually. The medical department had experienced growth of 60 % and the surgical department 80 %, and the number of births on the maternity ward had increased from 200 to 700 each year. The in-hospital length of stay was reduced by 50 per cent (19).
Dr Roar Strøm also became involved in the local community. He gave lectures for the general public on topics including blood transfusions, degenerative disorders of the legs and back, and cancer treatment. There was discussion at that time too about the organisation of the healthcare system and the location of hospitals. In a lecture at Bethania prayer house in 1948, then the largest venue in Stavanger, he spoke in favour of centralising hospitals in Rogaland, in order to create institutions and communities that could benefit from medical innovations requiring technical, financial and administrative resources. According to a newspaper report, the prayer house was almost full and the senior consultant was rewarded with loud applause after his lecture (20).
Strøm could also adopt more unconventional methods, such as the time in 1946 when he invited two journalists for a drive so that he could show them the road to the hospital. It was in appalling condition. Being transported along this "washboard road" was agony for patients, and had been so for many years (21). He made his opinions known, too, about other matters he considered deserving of criticism. In 1949 he wrote an indignant letter to the local newspaper about a group of young people who had behaved "disgracefully" during a service in the cathedral (22). He was certainly widely engaged.
Dr Strøm was also easily recognisable in Stavanger when out driving his car – a large, yellow American model (Reidar Vik, personal communication). As a hobby, he wrote that he dabbled in "a little portrait sketching and watercolour painting" (23).