Swedish maternity care has been in focus in recent years over reports of women in labour being turned away from overcrowded hospitals due to a lack of beds and forced to travel to other hospitals further away. Last year The Local reported that some families had been sent to Finland to give birth.
The Social Democrat-Green coalition has now agreed with the Left Party, who is not part of the government but whose backing they need in parliament, to allocate an extra 500 million kronor to boost staff numbers at Swedish hospitals. In an earlier budget the parties agreed to earmark 400 million kronor a year to natal care over four years, a period which started last year.
“I think it's very good news. The person who is to give birth has to be able to trust that they are going to get the care they need,” Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt told Swedish Radio.
Health care in Sweden is usually decentralized and falls within the remit of county authorities (landsting). But Sjöstedt said in this case the state had to act to help improve care across Sweden.
“It's half a billion kronor and it will mainly go to staff, so that good working conditions can be provided, so that you can retain staff and make sure you have proper staffing levels in summer. In some counties you can avoid bad cuts and keep the delivery rooms you need,” said Sjöstedt.
“It is so obvious that there are problems in maternity care. In big cities it's to do with a lack of capacity, many have difficulties recruiting and retaining staff, and in other parts of Sweden functioning maternity care is being closed down,” he said.
Local residents and campaigners have been occupying a former maternity ward in Sollefteå, northern Sweden, in protest against the county council's decision to close it, since February. Two midwives at the ward grabbed global headlines after launching a course in response teaching mums to give birth in cars.
“They think they will save millions of kronor by closing the ward. For me, personally, it feels like they are cutting the lifeblood of a society,” one of the midwives, Stina Näslund, told The Local at the time.
The spring budget proposal will be presented in parliament in mid-April.