Sweden’s hospital bed shortage exposed in shocking stats

Sweden's hospital bed shortage exposed in shocking stats
Hospital file photo taken at Södersjukhuset in Stockholm. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT
The number of hospital beds in Sweden has decreased by almost 10,000 in the past two decades despite concerns raised about overcrowding, reports newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

Sweden's stretched healthcare has been a high-profile subject in recent years following stories related to the scarcity of beds at hospitals, including nurses raising concern about an increasingly tough workload.

“This is being talked about as if it were a natural disaster. It is not a natural disaster, but about the complete ignorance of those in power,” Märit Halmin, intensive care doctor at Södersjukhuset in Stockholm, told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on Monday.

The population of Sweden has grown by almost 13 percent since the end of the 1990s. In the same time the number of hospital beds in the public healthcare system went down by almost 30 percent, according to local authority statistics, reports Svenska Dagbladet.

The strain has been felt by staff too. In the university town of Uppsala 15 percent of nurses left their jobs in the past year and similar trends can be seen in other parts of the country.

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Sweden's hospital beds shortage is the worst in Europe, according to official statistics. In 2015 it had 2.4 available beds per 1,000 people, according to the OECD, fewer than Ireland and the UK at 2.6 per 1,000. 

But despite that and long waiting times, Sweden's overall standard of healthcare is still generally considered high. It made the top-five best nations in the Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ), which was published in the UK journal The Lancet earlier this year and studied the quality of healthcare in 195 countries by measuring mortality rates from causes that should not be fatal in the presence of effective medical care.

The Local has covered Sweden's healthcare in several articles in recent years, including reports of women in labour being turned away from hospitals due to a shortage of space, the controversial closure of the maternity ward in Sollefteå, northern Sweden, and cases of some mothers being flown to Åbo in Finland to give birth.

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