More than half of Sweden’s county councils, which are responsible for running the country’s healthcare system, report problems with doctors who lack sufficient command of the Swedish language.
According to a study by Sveriges Television, complaints about the Swedish language skills of doctors from other EU countries have come from both their Swedish colleagues and patients.
When Reino Pönni visited a local clinic recently to have doctors examine a pain in his foot, he was sent home with a prescription for heavy sedatives because of miscommunication with the doctor.
“This is bad. It shows that if you can’t master the language it can, in the worst case, endanger patient safety,” said Thomas Tegenfeldt of the authorization and patient safety division of the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), upon viewing the Sveriges Television report.
Some claim that Socialstyrelsen is to blame for the prevalence of doctors with poor language skills in the Swedish healthcare system because doctors from other EU countries don’t need to take a language test in order to receive a licence to practice in Sweden.
However, officials at the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) say the county councils are at fault for hiring doctors who can’t speak Swedish.