Stockholm doctors warn of risks to patient safety

Doctors in the Stockholm region have warned that patients' safety will be put at risk if changes don't take place to combat staff shortages, lack of hospital beds, and overburdened emergency departments.

Stockholm doctors warn of risks to patient safety
The doctors cited a study which linked higher mortality to overburdened staff in Stockholm emergency departments. File photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

“It is time for hospital leadership, governing politicians and regional medical chiefs to speak out and recognise that patient safety in the Stockholm healthcare sector today is threatened,” three doctors wrote in an article in Svenska Dagbladet.

The doctors include two who previously organised the 'Stockholms sjukvårdsupprop' movement for better conditions for medical workers during the pandemic, and the chairperson of the Stockholm Medical Assocation.

Citing a study from the Karolinska Institute, they said there was a link between higher mortality in Stockholm's hospitals and overburdened staff and departments, particularly in emergency departments.

“During the corona pandemic there has been a discussion about how you should choose between different patients in a situation where our resources are not sufficient. This has worried many. What few realise is that this dilemma was a reality for us even before the pandemic, and will continue to be the case unless major changes take place,” they wrote.

The problems raised in the article include long hospital waiting times, a staff shortage combined with high turnover, even describing “war-like scenes” in emergency rooms.

“With the current lack of resources, staff and hospital beds, we can no longer follow all our guidelines for optimal care,” the doctors said.

The regional medical chief Björn Eriksson told the TT newswire he considered the allegations to be serious, and said that if a hospital finds that patient safety is at risk in emergency departments, the first step is to get support from other departments of the hospital, before then turning to the region for assistance. He also said that a lot has been done to improve the situation.

“Patient safety is a tough concept. It is not binary. It is not possible to say that we either have total patient safety or no patient safety. But what we can say is that we always strive for the highest possible level of patient safety,” he said. 

“All healthcare workers should feel that they are being listened to and are able to play a part in how we are improving the sector for a safer, better level of patient care. I see that as one of the most important tasks of leadership. Here we, like so many others, have important continued work to do, Eriksson said. 

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