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‘The situation is serious’: Stockholm health chief calls for private sector help

Stockholm's health authorities have made a new call for help, asking for private healthcare companies to free up staff to help solve a severe shortage in intensive care places.

'The situation is serious': Stockholm health chief calls for private sector help
Doctors and nurses have already been transferred from Astrid Lindgren's Children's hospital. Photo: Holger Ellgaard/Wikipedia Commons
Stockholm's health authorities have made a new call for help, asking for private healthcare companies to free up staff to help solve a severe shortage in intensive care places. 
 
“The situation is serious and we need help,” Björn Eriksson, the  region's health chief, told Sweden's TT newswire. “Around a third of healthcare in Stockholm is carried out in the private sector. It makes sense for them also to take responsibility.” 
 
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Eriksson made headlines internationally on Wednesday when he warned that the region's intensive care units were at 99 percent capacity. 
 
On Friday he called the region's biggest private healthcare providers to a meeting, hoping to convince them to release staff to help out in the city's intensive care wards. 
 
“Give them time off and let them come and work for us,” he said. 
 
Even though there are currently only 80-90 coronavirus patients being treated in intensive care in Stockholm compared to a peak of 230 in the spring, there are many more patients with other conditions needing emergency treatment. 
 
“What we have now that we didn't have in the spring is that there are many people seeking other types of acute care. That went down completely for several weeks in the spring,” he said. 
 
Eriksson said that private healthcare providers had responded positively to his call, but he said it was still unclear how much the region might have to pay for the additional staff. 
 
“We are going to need as many as possible, so of course it's going to be pricey for us,” he said. “At first it's the region which pays the cost, but all extra costs connected to covid-19 will later on be reimbursed by the state.” 
 
On Friday evening Astrid Lindgren's children's hospital said it was seconding 120 medical staff to Karolinska University Hospital to support Covid care. 
 

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COVID-19

Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.” 

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