Sweden rolls out billion-kronor cash boost for elderly care

Sweden rolls out billion-kronor cash boost for elderly care
File photo of two workers in a Swedish care home. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Billions of kronor are set to be injected into Swedish health and social care this year and next, to attract more people to jobs in elderly care and help regions affected by the coronavirus, the government announced on Tuesday.

Sweden isn't the only country where care homes have seen devastating levels of infection spread, and infectious disease experts are racing to work out where the approach went wrong in order to save lives.

Around half of people aged above 70 who have died of the coronavirus in Sweden lived in some form of special housing for elderly people, according to figures presented by health authorities in early May.

Sweden's Social Democrat-Green coalition government on Tuesday agreed with parliament colleagues in the Centre and Liberal parties on a talent drive package worth 2.2 billion kronor ($222.5 million) for elderly care.

The measure is intended to boost staff numbers and make jobs in elderly care more attractive. Staff are also to be offered paid training during work hours, which is meant to make more permanent positions possible. One of the concerns raised during the coronavirus crisis is the large number of hourly employees – who may struggle to follow guidelines and stay home from work with symptoms without risking losing their salary.

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“This will mean that 10,000 more assistant nurses and care workers can get access to skills development,” Emil Källström, finance spokesperson for the Centre Party, told a press conference on Tuesday morning, joined by Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson of the Social Democrats, Financial Markets Minister Per Bolund of the Green Party and Mats Persson, finance spokesperson for the Liberal Party.

“It will also be an opportunity for employers to step up from part-time work to full-time work,” he added.


Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, and Mats Persson of the Liberal Party. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The state will foot the bill for employees' absence from work due to studies, which is set to come to 2.2 billion kronor in 2020 and 2021, and is intended to be in line with suggestions by regional authorities and trade unions.

Tuesday's proposal also includes a cash injection for regional adult vocational training, so that 10,000 people studying half-time will be able to get trained in health and social care during the fourth quarter of 2020.

Party leaders also vowed to step in and help regional councils secure enough funds to fight the epidemic.

“The healthcare sector should have the resources it needs to fight the pandemic and offer healthcare to those who need it,” Bolund told the press conference. “Money should not have to be an obstacle.”

Another two billion kronor were on Tuesday added to three billion already earmarked for regions and municipalities who face extra costs due to the coronavirus, bringing the total to five billion kronor.

Andersson said the government's coronavirus crisis packages so far amounted to 190 billion kronor, emphasising that the five billion should not be seen as a cap and could be increased if needed.


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