• Sweden's news in English

New Swedish doc probed for missed cancer cases

TT/Rebecca Martin · 19 May 2011, 13:46

Published: 19 May 2011 13:46 GMT+02:00

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The Linköping pathologist has been able to continue working at the hospital despite the reports that he failed to detect cancer in several patients.

However, following the discovery of a similar case in Gothenburg, the hospital offials have decided to re-check all of the doctor's diagnoses dating back a year.

“We can’t just sit idly by and say ‘this just applies to them’. We don’t think we have the same problem but as we aren’t completely certain, we think there is reason to check it out,” Christer Andersson, head of medicine at Linköping hospital, said to local paper Östgöta Corresondenten.

Marie Wedin, of the Swedish Mecal Association (Läkarförbundet), does not want to comment on individual cases.

“But every hospital head is responsible for ensuring that the hospital’s doctors have the proper training and are healthy and able to carry out the work that they are hired to do," she told news agency TT.

Wedin also pointed out that the assessments made by the pathologists are always just assessments, and can never be a 100 percent accurate.

“The main thing is to create procedures so as to minimise mistakes, “ she said.

One of the problems is that there is a lack of pathologists in Sweden. Currently there are 189 full-time pathologists working in Sweden.

According to a report released last autumn by the Swedish Cancer Society (Cancerfonden), Sweden is in need of 291 full-time pathologists.

The Linköping doctor is retired but comes in to cover shifts at the hospital.

Despite the fact that he has been reported seven times, the hospital has not suspended him and they will only re-check test results dating back a year.

“What we have done is to limit the doctor’s work so that he no longer works with prostate changes and when it comes to tumours of the skin we have the policy now that these should be looked at by two specialists,” Andersson said to ÖC.

Story continues below…

According to Wedin, the shortage of pathologists is forcing hospitals to rely on procedures that are less secure.

“You can’t let people wait months for cancer results, so the question for the managers is how many times results should be double checked," Wedin told TT.

The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) has put the case in Gothenburg under review, according to Lex Maria, the informal name used to refer to regulations governing the reporting of injuries or incidents in the Swedish health care system.

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:29 May 19, 2011 by krrodman
Socialized medicine with "free" care for all is a lofty ideal. Who would ever argue against "free" care for everyone? Turns out, though, that the care is not "free" but paid for with tax revenues, and state managed care imparts severe restrictions on both quality and quantity of care.

Is there a solution to the problem of a pathologist misdiagnosing cancer? Absolutely. The solution already exists in the USA. All slides are read independently by two pathologists AND the reports are delivered within 5 working days of receiving the specimen(not months as quoted in the article). This system doesn't eliminate human error, but it helps. Of course, this level of care comes at a huge financial cost to the American public.

It is easy to criticize American medicine. We do many things wrong. We waste enormous sums of money. We order too many tests. But nobody waits months for pathology specimens to be read, and we have costly redundancies that help to eliminate human error.
19:48 May 19, 2011 by star10
@krrodman: To how many people the "5-day result" apply in the US? To those who have the money. And millions can't get it at all. Of course if you are rich enough, you can have own your own hospital (with a private parking for your personal plane). Sweden with its "socialized" system has registered a far better welfare outcome than the US for its average citizen. Yes the health care system has a problem, but the US system is not to be looked at as alternative solution. You say "nobody waits months for pathology specimens to be read." I think you are unaware of the fact that many wait to get treatment until death (since they are not "rich enough" to afford).
20:48 May 19, 2011 by Species125
Sweden's government health care system abuses, tortures, and murders thousands of people year after year after year. Tax-funded, state-sanctioned torture and murder. Don't kid yourself that people in this system care about human life. The ones that do care, leave the system or are largely paralyzed by it. Most are happy to let you suffer and die a very painful, low-cost, putrid rotting death. Be warned and have a plan in place to access care in another country!!! Your life or the life of someone you love could depend upon it.
01:53 May 20, 2011 by krrodman

You have been reading far too much Swedish propaganda.

Let's look at some facts:

1. If 30 million people in the USA do not have insurance, that means that 240 million people do have insurance and have better access to care than in Sweden. Yes, all surgical patients have their pathology slides read the very same way - 5 days. 2 MDs

2. Of the 30 million people who do not have insurance, 15 million are young and healthy and elect not to purchase insurance. Typically they are in entry level jobs that do not offer them insurance as part of their employment package.(something I think is completely wrong, by the way.). However, by law every hospital must take care of all emergencies independent of their ability to pay. Many young people take the calculated risk not to buy insurance knowing that hospitals must care for them if they have an acute situation.

3. The statistics that indicate that the average Swede lives longer than the average American, and therefore, Swedish medicine is superior to American medicine are meaningless. Longevity is not an accurate reflection of quality of medical care in the following ways: The statistics do not take into account early death from Social ills such as death from trauma, drugs, and violence. Unfortunately we have an abundance of early deaths in the USA from trauma, drugs and violence. If a 20 year old dies from a drug overdose how is that a reflection on the quality of medical care?? Yet, these oft quoted studies include all of these deaths to prove that Swedish health care is superior to health care in the USA.

06:22 May 20, 2011 by engagebrain
01:53 May 20, 2011 by krrodman

Most US health insurance has very strict limits - basically you are insured until you actually require expensive treatment - get sick, lose job, wave goodbye to insurance.

Commericialization of healthcare produces a 'care' side of the system that tries to overtreat (more income) and an insurance side desperate avoid paying for care (more proft) .If you really believe that in this battle the patient's health is anyone's priority, except their own, you really need health care - for a longterm delusion your US insurance will run out very quickly, you are better off in the Swedish system.
07:13 May 20, 2011 by karex
LOL - the above argument back and forth is simply comparing two extremes, neither of which work BTW, trying to show which one is the best. I have yet to see one case, in any situation, where an extreme solution in a good choice.The cost in the US is so high in part due to the culture of rapant litigation. In this case the brunt of the fault does not lie with the authorities or the medical professionals, but with patients who think they found a "get rich quick" scheme and follow it at the expense of all the other patients. On the other hand, a helath care system run by politicians and beaurocrats usually could care less about health itself, only about how to save money so it could be spent somewhere else instead, and in many cases, the prioritization applied is doubtful at best. This practice has been going on so long that the attitude of disdain for human life has trickled down even to the medical professionals. There are systems elsewhere in the world which even if not perfect, work much, much better than the two extremes. Mostly because the solution lies somewhere in the middle. Balance is usually the best option.
08:45 May 20, 2011 by nolikegohome
What Sweden needs badly are qualified Dermat-Pathologists ( specialist in skin Pathology) General Pathologists are not qualified to diagnose difficult and complicates skin diseases and tumours. Unfortunately the big hospitals try to save money and make general pathologists work as Dermato-Pathologists. It just does not work. Sweden has only a few such super specialists and does not pay enough to retain them at the job. In the case of Göteborg the best Dermato-Patholgists resigned from the university and joined a private concern. Funny thing is the govt sponsered clinics are forced to send their pathology samples to the university hospital where there is no real high standard qualified Dermato-pathologist. On the other hand the private sector has the benifit of what we need. YES a real top of the notch Dermato-Pathologist.

I would suggest that the big and huge and famous University re-structers its system and employs more qualified specialists.

It is a shame that one such specialist who was 67 years old and willing to work (fit for work)was only offerd half the salary of the norm. He left for Denmark where he was welcome with open arms. Wake up dear Sweden our life is in danger because of your stingy ideas.

But i still love you Sweden no matter what. hahaha

09:32 May 20, 2011 by engagebrain
07:13 May 20, 2011 by karexa wrote health care system run by politicians and beaurocrats usually could care less about health itself,

But in a democracry with a state run health care system you can vote out the poloticians and kick the arses of the bureaucracts. But with private hospitials and private insurance schemes you have no leverage - just look at how much company money was put into derailing Obama's mild reforms. Also in a democracy you actually get many, clearly not all, health care staff who want top provide health care - not just profit.

Maybe Americans have shorter lives because they worry so much about access to healthcare.
11:39 May 20, 2011 by cogito
@4krrodman. Of course what you say is correct. But those who get their info. from the Swedish media are impervious to facts.

89 percent of Americans have health insurance. Of the 11% who do not, the majority are either illegal immigrants or are young and healthy and and choose to buy cars, IPhones and other tech toys rather than pay for insurance.

Federal law requires that the 11% uninsured receive medical care. The quality of care they are given in, for example, emergency rooms is better than what we get in Sweden.
12:00 May 20, 2011 by Rick Methven
Pick the statistics you want to justify your point of view

"For those whose employers do not offer a health plan, paying insurance premiums individually can be very expensive. Consider that employers paid an average of $12,700 for a family of four in annual premiums in 2008. That is more than what a full-time minimum wage earner made in that same year ($10,712). For the 46 million Americans who are uninsured, one-third either has trouble paying or cannot pay the $26 billion that they incurred in out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Read more: Health Insurance in the USA | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_5268308_health-i...1MsvX3Jrh"

Now according to my calculation 46 million uninsured out of a population of 310 million is closer to 15% than 11%. and as we well know since 2008 the number of Americans who are uninsured has risen dramatically, some estimates make it as high as 20%
12:32 May 20, 2011 by krrodman
@ Karex

I agree with you completely that the health care systems in the USA and Sweden are at two extremes. I believe the biggest problem with Obamacare is that it didn't dismantle a broken system; it just added another complex layer.

That said, I have noticed that in the USA we focus on what we do poorly in our health care system and all but ignore what we do well - and there are many things we do extremely well. On the other hand, when I talk to my Swedish friends and family about health care in Sweden, they focus on what is done well - Universal Health Care - and almost completely ignore the more problematic aspects of health care in Sweden.

Here is a short list of failings in the Swedish Health Care system:

1. 0-7-90-90 is an embarrassment. 180 day wait(longer if tests such as x-rays are required) for elective surgery. The waits are the longest in the industrialized west.

2. Bureaucratic control of expensive therapies in the elderly such as dialysis.

3. Foreign trained doctors who are not fluent in Swedish.

4. Less is More approach to care driven by the desire NOT TO SPEND MONEY. Let me give you an example. Last week Sweden completed a study which demonstrated that a radical prostatectomy, the most expensive therapy for prostate cancer, saves lives. Sweden will now offer this to its citizens. Sounds great except that the rest of the world has recognized that a radical prostatectomy is the best therapy for over 20 years. Sweden insisted on its own study in order to be convinced to spend the money. Until now the Swedish medical bureaucracy insisted that men died of other diseases before they died of their prostate cancer. WRONG!
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