Health fears over Karolinska cutbacks

Karolinska University Hospital is cutting 280 million kronor from its budget next year, leading to fears that the quality of healthcare in the Stockholm region will suffer as a result.

According to the budget plans for 2006, it is possible that this year’s deficit of 75 million kronor will also be added to the cuts, said Svenska Dagbladet.

A further concern for staff at the hospital is that salary increases could be set at 2.4%, considerably lower than the district council’s target of 3.6%.

Karolinska is one of the largest teaching hospitals in Europe, with a total of 1,700 beds and over 15,000 employees.

The savings have already meant that X-ray examinations have been transferred to other hospitals in Stockholm, and over 30 operations have been moved from the Thorax Clinic to Uppsala.

“The 280 million kronor we’re discussing includes 100 million of predetermined savings and 80 million which is dependent on internal factors such as new medicines and techniques,” explained hospital director Cecilia Schelin Seidegård.

“Then there will be a drop in income as a consequence of casualty department cutbacks and moving rehabilitation to Danderyd. With that we’re up to a total of 280 million kronor which needs to be saved,” she told SvD.

Medical staff and unions declared themselves deeply concerned about the quality of care following the cuts – although senior staff are unable to comment due to a loyalty clause in their contracts.

“We ought to have saved enough by now,” said Anders Wennerberg, the Karolinska section chairman of the Swedish Medical Association.

“During the autumn, for example, there’s a block on all further training – if that is extended it will be a total catastrophe. We have a goal to be one of Europe’s five leading teaching hospitals by 2011. This development puts our credibility in danger.”

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