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Fast-track boost for immigrant healthcare workers

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19:33 CEST+02:00
The Swedish government is to invest 148 million kronor to ensure that immigrants educated in healthcare from countries outside the European Union are fast-tracked into care jobs in Sweden.

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting - SKL) has welcomed the investment.

"People's skills will be made the most of through a superb integration measure. Furthermore, it is important that healthcare staff reflect the make-up of the population," said Leif Lindberg, an analyst at SKL.

Under the current system, healthcare personnel from EU countries can get Swedish authorization within a couple of weeks. But language and qualification validation problems mean that foreigners from non-EU countries can be forced to wait for up to four years.

Changes to the rules have been discussed for years and projects have even been launched to try to solve the lack of resources in healthcare.

But now a completely new supplementary education programme will be introduced to speed staff from non-EU countries into Swedish healthcare.

Of the 148 million kronor earmarked for the investment, 46 million kronor has been committed for spending in 2008 with a further 51 million kronor in each of the following two years.

"It's money which will go directly to the universities and colleges," said Leif Lindberg.

The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) will investigate the problems of validating foreign qualifications, while the Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) will clarify the requirements of staff working in Sweden.

As the Swedish population ages, the need for medical and care resources is increasing.

The new investment is timely, according to SKL. At least 500 doctors from non-EU countries are currently waiting for their Swedish registration, according to Leif Lindberg.

He pointed out that many people working as nursing assistants were in fact trained as nurses in their home countries.

"But with their new training they should be able to get their authorisation, which would be of great value," said Lindberg.

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