Sweden to probe all elderly care homes after coronavirus exposes ‘serious flaws’

Sweden's healthcare watchdog has launched a major investigation after concerns were raised over the treatment of elderly people in care homes during the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The probe comes both on the back of Sweden's Healthcare Inspectorate's (IVO) own observations and reports in media that people in elderly care homes were not being given access to oxygen treatment.

“What we have seen and what has been reported in the media is serious. Everyone who needs it should receive good healthcare and social care. That applies as much now, during an ongoing crisis, as ever,” said Sofia Wallström, IVO director-general, in a statement announcing the new investigation on Wednesday.

It follows a series of recently concluded inspections of more than a thousand homes and activities for people in elderly care homes, home care services and care homes for people with disabilities across Sweden.

During that inspection, IVO said it had discovered serious flaws in around one of ten homes.

The new probe is set to investigate whether people are being treated based on their individual needs, whether individual assessments are made when deciding on the level of care a patient needs, and if the homes are able to provide medical care and treatment for those who do not need hospital care.

IVO is set to carry out the probe between June 1st and 21st. It will include all of Sweden's 21 administrative regions those making medical decisions for people staying in the country's 1,700 elderly care homes.

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Protecting the elderly, the group most vulnerable to serious illness from the coronavirus, has been a key part of Sweden's strategy from the start. Researchers and infectious disease experts have been racing to work out where the approach went wrong in order to reduce the spread of infection in care homes and save lives.

Statistics from the National Board of Health and Welfare published on May 6th showed that of the people aged above 70 who died of the coronavirus in Sweden (90 percent of the total victims), around half lived in some form of special housing, while a quarter had home carers. 

Sweden isn't the only country where care homes have seen devastating levels of infection spread. Residents of elderly care homes have accounted for a large proportion of fatalities in countries like France and Spain where the infection arrived earlier and total deaths have been much higher than in Sweden, as well as in Denmark and Norway which have otherwise seen significantly lower death rates than Sweden.

But the situation is not exactly the same all over Sweden, with Malmö on Wednesday highlighed by the National Board of Health and Welfare as having “done a relatively good job” at protecting its elderly.


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