In December, three families from the Uppland province had to travel to Finland when it was time to give birth because there was no room for them in the neonatal unit of Uppsala University Hospital, SVT reports.
“It’s true that Swedes have had to give birth in Åbo (Finland) because of a lack of space in Sweden,” Erik Norrman, the head of Uppsala University Hospital's neonatal unit, confirmed to The Local.
“It’s us who started the process of the families going over there, but that was after checking with all the units in Sweden. We needed to turn to another country because none of the university hospitals in Sweden could accept the families,” he added.
A lack of space in the specialist neonatal units (those designed to take care of premature children) is a problem according to Norrman, with a limited number of spots in those units available across Sweden.
“It’s families with an expectation or suspicion that babies will need special care, we always want those families to give birth at a university hospital, so the kids can be taken care of if sick. We have a limited number of those kinds of spaces in Sweden, and if it’s full we’re forced to find another solution – we asked Finland for help,” he noted.
Local politicians have promised to take action to resolve the shortages.
“We will soon take a decision on new places for neonatal care so we have more spots. But above all we perhaps need to address the employment conditions of staff so that we have enough staff to take care of all the people who come to us,” Vivianne Macdisi, the Social Democrat chairperson of the hospital’s board said.
Swedish natal care has been in focus in recent years due to to reports of a lack of beds for expectant mothers.
Earlier this year a baby died when a heavily pregnant woman was turned away from an overcrowded hospital in the south of the country, while in a high-profile case in 2014, a Swedish man had to help his fiancée give birth to their baby in the back of a taxi because the family was turned away by a midwife, who said there wasn't a hospital bed available for them in all of Stockholm.
Updated to add comments from Erik Norrman given to The Local.