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Health system wait times improve in Sweden

TT/David Landes · 20 Jan 2011, 17:22

Published: 20 Jan 2011 17:22 GMT+01:00

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According to a new healthcare law which came into effect in July 2010, Swedes should be able to see a doctor within seven days of first visiting a publicly financed health clinic.

In addition, the ‘care guarantee’ (vårdguaranti) stipulates that patients shouldn’t be made to wait more than 90 days to see a specialist and that any prescribed treatment, such as an operation, should be scheduled within 90 days of seeing the specialist.

According to figures presented jointly on Thursday by the government and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), 90 percent of patients within the Swedish health system received care in accordance with the care guarantee’s guidelines.

“We’re proud that we’ve started this work in the county councils which has now led to citizens receiving care on time,” Henrik Hammar, the chair of SALAR’s healthcare committee, said in a statement.

Halland Councy in western Sweden showed the best performance, while Dalarna County in central Sweden and Stockholm County had the worst record when it came to ensuring patients didn’t have to wait too long to receive care.

“Wait times continue to decrease. We’ve never had such a large percentage of patients receive care in an appropriate time,” Hägglund said in a statement.

The figures come from measurements taken between January and March, as well as between September and December of last year.

The statistics are also the basis for determining the level of money each county health authority is to receive as a reward for good performance.

As a result of topping the list for 2010, Halland County is set to receive 97 million kronor ($14.5 million), which corresponds to 326 kronor per resident.

Stockholm, which was second worst at keeping health system wait times to a minimum, is set to receive just over 50 million kronor, which corresponds to just 25 kronor per resident.

Hägglund explained that rules for handing out the bonuses in 2011 would be adjusted to take into account the number of patients who receive care within 60 days, rather than the previous time limit of 90 days.

He also encouraged other county health authorities to follow Halland’s lead.

“Then we can continue this positive development,” he told reporters.

Hägglund also singled out Dalarna, the county which showed the least improvement when it came to reducing wait times.

Story continues below…

“Dalarna has quite a bit of work to do. It’s up to the county council there to identify what the problems are,” he said.

Despite the encouraging numbers, Hägglund pointed out that the time limits within which patients should receive care in Sweden aren’t especially short when seen from an international perspective.

“We’re not satisfied. There are still too many patients who have to wait way too long,” he said.

TT/David Landes (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

21:00 January 20, 2011 by Larry Thrash
"No one should have to wait more than 90 days to see a specialist." Is this a joke? Here in the US (Texas), it's rare that anyone (even those without insurance) has to wait more than a week. The last time I was referred to a specialist (cardiologist), I saw the doctor that very afternoon. I hope Swedes aren't "are dying in the streets" because they cannot get health care.
22:00 January 20, 2011 by know
It's better to give the body chanse to defend it self.
22:10 January 20, 2011 by Brtahan
Seeing a specialist takes 3 months and then 3 months for an operation thats 6 months minimum!!! before that: getting reffered to a specialist takes a long time because some of the doctors who are not specialists ,they wont refer until they have tested different types of medicines , so its like a lab Rat test and then finally when you get fed up and start screaming your lungs out thats when they say okey you should see a specialist even this would takes minimum 6 months . When a specialist say ok your condition is very bad and you need an operation. After the operation you come out to know its unsuccsesful because doctors always like the easy way out and not the better way of giving a long time cure. So they decide that you should see a specialist again!!! 3 months of waiting and specailist says again you need an operation and this a True life story and am still waiting, i waited more than 1.5 yrs till now!!!
23:03 January 20, 2011 by capricorn80
well its totally opposite for me.

My remise was to Doctor with high importance due to my pain from local doctor in july 2010 and i got a time in 2nd week of december after calling so many times to hospital and telling them that if there is a cancellation i am ready to come. After all the reports and prescription my doctor found something in my X-Ray and wanted to have some more X-Ray and he called me this week that he want to have this done as soon as possible and he told me that may be i will get a call in couple of weeks and today i got letter for X-Ray and the time is 23 March i.e after 2 months. From last 6 hours i am sitting in a depress mood just because of my problem and its been almost 10 months that they cant find the exact problem.

so all in all its about 1.2 yr for me now.
00:41 January 21, 2011 by Nilspet
I agree with Larry Thrash #1

It is fundamentally WRONG that there is such a thing as

"No one should have to wait more than 90 days to see a specialist."

This is nothing but a 3rd world medical care! Well in many 3rd world they do not have to wait more than a week, not even a day in some places.
00:42 January 21, 2011 by ISayWhatPeopleThink
Here in Sweden I had to wait just over 2 years for an operation after a vaginal tear (occurred during childbirth) didn't close. And trust me, even a week with a huge painful open gash in your hoo-ha would have been too long. But TWO FRIKKIN' YEARS with it, and unable to go to the bathroom or sit without excruciating pain was cruel. Sex with hubby was also out of the question. Two years of forced celibacy and basically being a hermit because of pain.

The 90 days guideline is a joke and an outright LIE.
01:06 January 21, 2011 by Boyfriend
A typical Swedish doctor "sayings" would be "please drink water and take Alvedon and come back after 6 months" They know in six months you might die ;)

This is very true and very sad that one doctor handle 2000 patience in many parts of Sweden, I have discussed this matter politicians and they are likely happy to save as much money as they can and they do not spend money as the other countries in health care system. If they spend money and hire more doctors then we would nt die waiting for treatments.

Other problem is that it is hard for other new medical students to get practical job, this is another reason , I hope they could search the talented Immigrant doctors who are very professional and this could take some time to teach them language atleast it would not take more than 10 years to produce a new one .
01:07 January 21, 2011 by statC
Even if you get to see a "specialist" , it does not mean that the specialist will actually do anything. Tests costs money... And the specialist can turn you away with an, "I don't know." You not even able to see anyone for a second opinion or anything. They just leave you in pain without a diagnosis or treatment. When I had chronic enephalitis, I was told that I was just stressed because I was an immigrant and that I should stop going to the doctor because no one was going to help me... One specialist told me that it wasn't his job to help me... Two doctors told me I should try getting pregnant to help my symptoms. I was also told that western women worry too much about education and financial security and I should think about how women in Africa have babies without worrying about these things. THIS is why I do NOT trust doctors in Sweden. I had to leave the country to get help... My body is permantly damaged... It's been a horrific experience...
03:56 January 21, 2011 by blursd
I remember during my first summer in Southeastern Sweden I discovered I had a rather serious allergy to some local pollen -- which was a surprise to me because I'd never had an allergy to grass or pollen up to that point in my life. It was miserable ... it felt like someone sprayed me with pepper spray ... my eyes were swollen up, my throat was scratchy, and I was sneezing every 30 seconds. I got in to the neighborhood health office after I'd been suffering for a couple days, and they told me it was allergies, but they couldn't give me any specific allergy medication and I would need to see an Allergist to get more help. I had to wait 3 MONTHS to see an allergist. The only thing I had in the interim was the over-the-counter Claritin the doctor I had suggested I should use. It helped some, but not really that much ... it was like putting a bandaid on a bullet wound.

Here in California I've had to see a specialist a couple times in the course of my life. Longest I've ever had to wait ... a couple days. Most of the time I see the specialist within a couple hours of my primary care visit. When you're having a problem and/or suffering (which is why you need to see a specialist) there's nothing worse than saying, "the specialist can see you in three months."

The healthcare system in the United States isn't perfect, but in this respect it is light years beyond Sweden ...
04:54 January 21, 2011 by paulhenri
@ Brtahan: A new EU law just passed... maybe it could help you?

"A LAW clarifying how and when patients seeking treatment in other EU countries can have the cost of that care met by their own government was approved by the European Parliament yesterday. It states that if there is an undue delay in receiving hospital treatment, an EU citizen can seek that treatment abroad, pay for it and have the cost reimbursed at home...."

PLEASE read the fine print though. This only covers the treatment cost in your home country, and the procedure must be approved in the country you live in. This law may not be as hopeful as it seems, but perhaps it could prove helpful.

I know for example, that a län is already supposed to send you outside of that län if they can't treat you BUT this seems to only exist on paper. They just ignore you rather than send you to someone who can help you... So perhaps this EU law is just something else that looks good on paper but isn't something that Sweden will allow to help people who are suffering.

I hope you who are sick and who are writing here that you find help soon and begin to heal and feel well again.


10:38 January 21, 2011 by Brtahan
Thx Paulhenri, for this usefull information but i called the hospital more than 10 times in this week asking them to send me to an another Län for the operation but they reply with we cannt help you you have to wait ,you live in this Län so thats the hospital whos going to operate me! Even the Specialist said that and he said i cannt help for the pain you get while waiting for the operation! GO to emergency and i went there before with a extreme pain like knife cutting through my body and bleeding and i waited from 10:30 in the evening till 3:30 in the morning and there was just me and an another person in there in the whole emergency and like 30 nurses who was sitting and surfing the net ,drinking coffee etc. At the end they said takes this medicines . They would not send me to another Län for the operation and am sure that they would even pay if i get treated in some other EU country. The whole system is a joke , i feel so frustrated . They dont care in here ,if a person gets pain they say drink water and alvedon.
15:08 January 21, 2011 by star10
Horrible stories. 90 days waiting time to see a single specialist is really a joke. Is it a developed country? I mean it is hard to imagine. During those 90 days, the patient goes through a lot of suffering. Even economically speaking, this might be a wasteful exercise. A person may not be able to work for most of the period while waiting (because of the pain). And compare the value of all that time (the patient's time) with 20 minutes of the specialist's time. Society loses a lot simply because people are unable to see a doctor in time and hence not work in a fully productive mood for months (or even a couple of years). In Sweden, of course that means more state expenses (in terms of sickness leave benefits and lower tax income). The mess that politicians create with the health system by underfunding the sector (with the intent of saving money) may actually backfire by costing the state more.
15:50 January 21, 2011 by BravoTango
Sounds like what we will get if we don't repeal ObamaCare
16:14 January 21, 2011 by jbkulp
What Larry Trash forgot to add was that if you have no insurance in the US you will never get to see anyone because they won't take you because you can't pay. But that only happens after the healthcare system has already bankrupted you halfway through the treatment you need and then let you die. Or you could live in Arizona where they just dumped people who couldn't pay from medical care and one who needed a transplant just died last week. That's much more moral and is why the US ranks #37 in the world in healthcare by the WHO.
16:38 January 21, 2011 by MarshaLynn
People who have grown up in countries where the government runs everything do not comprehend that there really is a better way. That is what America is all about. Despite the outcries from liberals in the USA, our health care system is the best in the world because it is based on a market economy. We don't have to wait for necessary services. We aren't told we will not receive treatment because we are too old and it wouldn't be cost effective. People who do not have insurance have other alternatives. No one in the USA gets left out. Take a look at our hospital emergency rooms crowded with illegal aliens who are all receiving healthcare. No one is turned away. Democrats passed the odious healthcare law not because they want to help people, but because they believe in a central govt. that controls people's lives. They passed that law over the outcries of the majority of the people. That is anathema to the American way of doing things, and it will be repealed. Socialism does not work, and we do not want it here in America.
17:32 January 21, 2011 by paulhenri
@ Brtahan: I am so sorry for your situation. My experience in Sweden has been very similar. I lived through pain so horrilbe, my whole body collapsed (several times), and I could only lie on the floor and hypervenalate... there's more and worse... but here, I was just told also to take alvedon, and that what I was experiencing just happens sometimes and was normal!! I hate to think of anyone experiencing what I have endured. There is no excuse for suc h inhumane treatment. Please remember that you are not alone! I wish I could help, but I don't know how to. I have never gotten help in Sweden. I was forced to go into debt and borrow money from my parents to get treatment outside of Sweden. I have never met such cruel people as many (not all) of the medical people here... Whatever your health problem is, maybe try searching for a förening for that particular problem. It's been my experience that these people have experienced the same problems and they want to share what they've learned about the system, and they often share that information to help you get help. I don't know how much they can do, but they might know something that can help you.
01:46 January 22, 2011 by Kaethar
Are people STILL complaining about waiting times? Don't people get it? The public healthcare system in Sweden does not follow a system of supply and demand. Since everyone can get healthcare there is a huge demand and never enough supply to back it up. But that's ok, since at least we don't leave our citizens dying on the streets.

For those people who simply just cannot wait there is always PRIVATE HEALTHCARE. Yes, that exists in Sweden as well.

You can't have your cake and eat it to. You have to prioritize in healthcare. Whether to take a long time to deal with every patient or whether to focus on the rich ones straight away.
02:52 January 22, 2011 by jbkulp
Marsha Lynn posted complete crap. The US system is not the best in the world, it is #37 as ranked by the World Health Organization. It is twice as costly to produce those stellar results than ANY other developed country's due to the market economy. At that, it IS the best if that's the results you want. It's complete nonsense to say you don't have to wait for services. I tried to make an appointment to see a dermatologist for an exam recently and have to wait 6 months. That's for an exam in the great private system and I live in a major metropolitan area. No coverage and you won't see them at all because they won't treat you. In Arizona's Republican run death panel state they will simply let you die. See here: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/News/arizona-transplant-deaths/story?id=12559369 That's the Republicans market economy approach. Like that? No? Well, you can go bankrupt too halfway through your treatment if you like that market economy approach better. That's one of the "other alternatives" she's talking about. Going without healthcare at all is another which millions do each year. It is true you can get treated in hospital emergency rooms if that is your idea of the great healthcare she babbles about BUT only a. if that hospital gets federal--central--government funds AND b. only to stabilize your condition. That's great for say cancer isn't it? Beyond that even the federal funds ones don't have to treat you. The law she talks about was passed by a majority of democratically and freely elected representatives which is as American as you can get by the way. Here we don't hold elections on every bill that comes before Congress. It has NO chance of being repealed. Republicans just tried and and failed but don't let the facts bother you. As for socialism, America has long had two completely socialized medical systems, both of which work fine. The military's and the veteran's one. Just got a free MRI at the veteran's one today myself. No one in either party want to repeal either of those, so I guess America DOES want socialized medicine doesn't it? Lastly, Medicare is why elder people get medical in the US--a government run program with a 95% favorability rating. This is a payment system not a socialized one and the ONLY one you can get over 65. Any private one simply won't take you because you cost them far too much. Complete right wing bullshit is what she posted.
19:44 January 22, 2011 by BobWas
#18 . "Arizona's Republican run death panel state" is going to be what happens in all 50 states once Obamacare kicks in.

Arizona is broke -- the budget deficit this year is over a billion dollars. About three quarters of the budget (think education, pensions) can't be cut because of citizen initiatives. There is not enough tax money to pay for all the healthcare needs in the state. This is exactly what is going to happen with Obamacare. Quick, what's the Obamacare policy on transplants? Don't know? That's because there isn't one. What makes you think it will be any different from what's happening in Arizona?

Obamacare was passed by shenanigans -- closed-door, middle of the night deals, bribes, "deem and pass", reconciliation. Hardly the American way.
18:16 January 23, 2011 by jbkulp
@BobWas your twisted distorted post is a perfect example of how the right wing in the US has been demagoguing the health care reforms all along and, as usual, a complete load of crap. For those of you here that don't know, the right wing/Republicans in the form of the ever incompetent and stupid Sarah Palin came out with the claim that what they love to call Obamacare--the one trying to cover all Americans the way EVERY other developed country in the world has done--was setting up so-called death panels. What it was was a provision allowing doctors to have conversations with dying patients on how to handle their end of life. This was ultimately dropped because of this ridiculous lie. Doctors have been doing this forever on an informal basis and helping patients end their lives on their own terms. Isn't that a great crime? Now, these very same right wing Republicans--always bellowing about government spending which before they created the current crisis were world class spenders and debt issuers themselves--got what they wanted in reduced government spending forcing them to make cuts at the same level that they were out crying for. Now that they had to do that in Arizona, their response was to dump transplant patients from the state's Medicaid program which is under their administration. Two of these transplant patients have already died as a result, so these immoral bunch of cretins created REAL death panels where their actions are literally killing people. The cretin posting this latest nonsense I'm sure was all for exactly what they wanted and got and is now trying to turn the results of their own immoral, unethical and plain stupid policies around on Obama. Sorry moron, but it was the Republican Governor of Arizona who did this just like she sold and then leased back the state capitol building, binding future Arizonians the pleasure of paying much more over time to us the building then when they owned it. In other words, increasing the state debt they were bellowing so much about. The reason there is not enough tax money in the state, of course, is because the same cretins bellowing about this now refuse to pay the needed taxes and prefer to kill people instead. And it's a lie about no transplant policy as well. There is a national law governing this which has been around since 1984 which this moron obviously doesn't know about either. The reason it will be different in others states--including mine--is that they're not populated by a bunch or immoral, unethical, stupid voters like this guy. And Obamacare, of course, was passed in an open, public vote anyone can go look at. Truly American.
19:00 January 23, 2011 by BobWas
Whoa there, jbkulp, why don't you take the anger down a notch.

My opinion is that there is not enough money in the state Medicaid budget of Arizona to pay for all the health needs of the people of Arizona who don't have private insurance. And that is going to be what happens on a national level when Obamacare kicks in -- you can't make unlimited medical care "free" for everybody at the point of service and not have the system overwhelmed. Choices on allocations of funds will be made -- that's what happens. Nobody is talking about that -- least of all the talking heads on TV criticising the Arizona governor.

The way I see it, every developed country is facing a crisis with their healthcare systems. Demographics, rising expectations, cost of technology, recessions, are just some of the things causing problems. No system has enough to go around.

And maybe I am a cretin because I don't know about a US law about transplants. Perhaps you could give me the name of it?
21:55 January 23, 2011 by jbkulp
Be happy to when the half truths, lies and distortions end. The reason there's not enough money in Arizona's budget is that they refuse to pay for it. They prefer to let people die instead which is exactly what they have done. And no, no other state is doing that much less all 50 of them anymore than they are trying to run around catching illegal immigrants like Arizona. And why is it that every other developed country has universal health care except for the US if it can't be done? Of course, it can be done and a lot more efficiently than the US provides health care. They've been doing it for half the cost of the US, covering everyone which the US doesn't do, and been doing it for decades. Of course, choices on allocation of funds have to be made, so the great state of Arizona chose killing people and fixing potholes instead of the other way around. How moral. And you see it wrong on other countries. When your costs are half of the US you have a lot of room to keep covering everyone don't you? Unlike the US with all the anti-tax free lunch crowd, those countries are perfectly willing to pay for what they get. And the name of the law is the National Organ Transplant Act.
18:20 January 24, 2011 by BobWas
jbkulp, I hear where you're coming from -- I just don't agree with you.

I looked up the text of the National Organ Transplant Act. The law does two things. It outlaws the selling of body organs for transplant and it allocates Federal money to the donor organ networks. Sorry, it does three things -- it also sets up committees to oversee the first two things.

It doesn't require states or private insurance to perform organ transplants, and it doesn't provide any Federal money for transplants.

As far as the people/potholes things go, the state of Arizona is not responsible for potholes. That would be the job of each city/county in Arizona. That's usually paid for out of water/garbage bills, not a separate tax.
00:12 January 25, 2011 by jbkulp
It does more than that, including preventing giving preference on transplant lists for other than medical reasons, etc. But that's not the point. You said "Quick, what's the Obamacare policy on transplants? Don't know? That's because there isn't one." That's completely false. The policy is set by the National Organ Transplant Act just as I said. You think Obama has a different policy than the law? Go find it then. And I didn't say that there was a requirement that states perform transplants, but all the moral ones--which excludes the idiotic state of Arizona which manages to make more dumb decisions than any other--do. Federal funding is provided for Medicaid which is the particular law here. Arizona decided to dump these transplant patients and let them die which two already did. There is no dispute about that. It's a fact. And as for potholes, that was just an example of all kinds of state funding that could be eliminated and deferred to pay for those transplants. Anybody that would let people die from illnesses that are not under their control--which NO other developed country does--is just a moral sewer deserving of utter contempt.
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