Hospital warns of baby mix-up risk

A hospital in Jönköping has warned that delays of several weeks in allocating personal numbers to newborn babies could lead to mix-ups in the maternity ward.

The Ryhov hospital raised the issue in a report to the Board of Health and Welfare, but the national registration office said that the process should take no more than two days.

The so-called Lex Maria report, based on the law requiring medical employees to report errors or negligence, did not refer to a specific case but was seen by the hospital as a way to speed up processing across the country.

“It’s very important that there is a change and it must happen quickly, or else there is a risk that someone will be hurt,” said Raymond Lendrick, head of operations at the women’s clinic in Jönköping, to Swedish Radio.

He emphasised that the whole Swedish healthcare system is based on the certain identification of individuals with personal numbers.

The four last numbers are unique to the child. Without the personal number, said the hospital, there is a risk of mixing up babies when they are having samples taken or having X-rays.

Lendrick claimed that it can currently take several weeks before the newborn baby is given a personal number. During that time, he said, the risk of mistakes is intolerably high.

However, Ingegerd Sterbäck, who is responsible for processing registration applications at the Tax Office, told TT that the process was much quicker.

“The cases should be dealt with within two days but we are working to speed that up further,” she said.

Sterbäck checked all births registered in Sweden on Monday and said that all cases were handled on the day they came into her office. However, she pointed out that a number of the children were born several days before the application was filed.

One explanation could be that certain maternity wards wait a few days and put all the birth documents together before sending them off.

When the child gets its personal number, a message is sent by post to the hospital. There should not be a long waiting time.

“I believe that we must investigate better the cause of the delays, whether that’s at the tax office, the post office or overworked midwives,” said Sterbäck.

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions is currently discussing ways of automating the application and allocation process for personal numbers.

TT/The Local