“We will start the dismantling with immediate effect,” Region Stockholm healthcare director Björn Eriksson said at a press conference on Thursday morning. “We have had the field hospital for two months and have not needed to take in a single patient.”
The field hospital in Älvsjö was ready to take in patients if needed from April 6th after being built in just one week, and Eriksson explained the plan in the city – which has been by far the worst-hit region in Sweden – was to “hope for the best and plan for the worst”.
“We will now make the most of the materials and equipment, but also the experience of building a completely new hospital within a week, together with the Armed Forces and National Board of Health and Welfare. We saw it as an insurance policy, something we hoped we wouldn't have to use but needed to have.”
The Stockholm region has remained within capacity in intensive care units and in the healthcare system in general. However, Sweden's healthcare watchdog opened an investigation into who receives intensive care after staff warned of unclear guidelines and said some patients were not receiving intensive care despite the available beds.
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Also in Thursday's press conference, Eriksson reminded everyone in Stockholm to continue following recommendations and not to see the dismantling of the field hospital as a sign that it was OK to relax.
He described the death tolls from the past month alone as “very upsetting reading”.
“I don't know what picture you have of the situation, but over the past few weeks there has been a general feeling among the public that things are now a bit easier. But as we can see, the need of hospital care is falling far too slowly and just in the past month, 669 people have died with Covid-19 in Stockholm,” said Eriksson.
“We are in a highly serious situation and the next months will be decisive. We are tired and we all want things to go back to normal. But they cannot. Then, more people would be infected by Covid-19, more will need hospital care for Covid-19, and more will die of Covid-19. It's our responsibility to absolutely not crowd in pubs, celebrate with friends and family, meet in large crowds, or be close to each other on beaches or parks,” he warned.
“Keep two metres' distance from everyone who doesn't live in your household. That way, we can keep down the spread of infection, the number of ill people, and the number of deaths. There are some who don't follow the recommendations and to you I say one thing: you are exposing not only yourself, but everyone else around you to an unacceptable risk,” he said. “Many also think that we have had Covid-19 but few of us know with certainty. Whether or not you've had it, you must follow the recommendations.”
He added that the fall in the number of patients requiring intensive care for the coronavirus was happening “very slowly” and at a much lower rate than the region had hoped for.
The hospital in Älvsjö was not the only such facility set up in Sweden. Across the country, intensive care capacity has roughly doubled, with field hospitals in many cities.
Gothenburg's field hospital took in its first patients in May, even though the city's other hospitals still had spare capacity, with the operations manager said that using the field hospital was “more simple and systematic”.