Swedish healthcare watchdog to investigate who receives intensive care in Stockholm

Swedish healthcare watchdog to investigate who receives intensive care in Stockholm
A monitor in an intensive care unit not linked to the story. Photo: Yvonne Åsell/SvD/TT
Sweden's healthcare watchdog is set to take a closer look at how Stockholm hospitals have prioritised intensive care admissions during the coronavirus epidemic.

Healthcare staff in Stockholm have previously warned of unclear guidelines and that patients needing intensive care are not receiving it despite there still being several hospital beds available in the region.

Sweden's Health and Social Care Inspectorate (IVO), the government agency in charge of supervising healthcare and social care to ensure it is being carried out to safe and high quality standards, launched an inspection of the Karolinska University Hospital more than two weeks ago for the same reasons.

“We have widened it to include all emergency hospitals with intensive care units in Region Stockholm,” Maria Lindhwall, a case officer at the Health and Social Care Inspectorate, told public broadcaster SVT on Tuesday.

All hospitals have been asked to answer questions about how they are prioritising patients, for example whether they are doing so in line with a normal situation or adapted to an extraordinary situation.

It is not uncommon, even in ordinary times, for people who are especially at-risk due to factors such as old age or underlying conditions not to be admitted to intensive care, if doctors judge that they would be unlikely to survive the highly intensive treatment itself and that other forms of treatment would be more suitable.

But some of the reports submitted to the Health and Social Care Inspectorate say that some coronavirus patients who normally would receive intensive care are not receiving it, and that this decision-making process differs between hospitals even within the Stockholm region, according to documents cited by SVT.

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Stockholm healthcare chief Björn Eriksson told SVT that he welcomes the inquiry, but that the instructions to hospitals remain that patients should not be de-prioritised as long as there are intensive care beds available.

A total of 192 coronavirus patients were being treated in intensive care in Stockholm on May 4th, and an additional 761 coronavirus patients were being treated in hospital, according to regional health authorities. The numbers have gone down since mid-to-late April.

There are still hospital and intensive care beds available in Stockholm. A field hospital built at Älvsjö south of the city to accommodate coronavirus patients is ready to open its doors, but has not yet had to be put to use.


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