Swedish hospital supply shortage: Here's what you need to know

The Local Sweden
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Swedish hospital supply shortage: Here's what you need to know
Staff in a corridor at Uppsala University hospital, where non-essential surgeries have been cancelled for over a week. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist / TT

A shortage of supplies has forced several hospitals across Sweden to cancel non-essential surgeries, with most set to resume this week. Here's a look at exactly what's happened.


Which hospitals are affected?

Hospitals in Uppsala, Dalarna and Västmanland have all been affected by the problem.

Uppsala University Hospital was the first to take the step of cancelling non-essential surgeries, which it did on October 16th, but was expected to resume these surgeries on Tuesday. A total of 150 operations have been cancelled since the problems began.

The Dalarna region also resumed non-essential surgeries on Tuesday, after 42 operations were cancelled on Monday.

In Västmanland, non-essential surgeries were cancelled at hospitals in Västerås and Köping from October 16th. These were expected to resume on Wednesday in Köping and the following day in Västerås. 

What's behind the shortage?

The problems began when Uppsala, Örebro, Dalarna, Västmanland and Sörmland changed suppliers at the start of October. The deal required the new supplier, Apotekstjänst, to provide supplies worth 50 million kronor over a 12-month period, but it failed to deliver the necessary equipment on time.

Örebro and Sörmland have able to cope with all surgeries including non-essential ones despite the supply shortage, but have been closely monitoring the situation.

Why does a supply shortage mean cancelled surgeries?

The missing equipment includes hand disinfectants, sterile gloves, catheters, and other items which are essential for safe surgeries. 

Emergency care and essential surgeries at the affected hospitals are continuing to run as normal, but scheduled routine surgeries and non-essential inpatient care had to be cancelled to ensure that hospitals are able to prioritize the most severely ill people.

What steps have been taken to solve the problem?

On Monday, Apotekstjänst met with the Supply Chain Committee, made up of politicians from the five affected regions. After this meeting, a spokesperson said they had decided to get deliveries from other suppliers.

Have there been further consequences?

Yes. The CEO of Apotekstjänst left his post on Monday, following a meeting with the Supply Chain Committee from the five affected regions. The regions have said they do not plan to terminate their agreement with Apotekstjänst.

Sweden's disaster preparedness agency MSB has criticized the regions for not being ready to cope with the problem.

And Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren has described the situation as "extremely concerning", saying that the government was working with the regions.


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