The request for Sweden to treat the Ebola patient, who had worked for Unicef in Sierra Leone, was issued Thursday night. The National Board of Health and Welfare and the Östergötland county council in southern Sweden declined.
Johanna Sandwall, head of crisis management at the Board of Health and Welfare, told news agency TT that the time for consideration was too short and that there was not enough information about the patient.
“Since we did not know anything at all about the patient, we could not make a medical assessment or know what to expect. We asked for more information about the patient’s status, but never got it,” Sandwall said.
Sandwall conceded that these kinds of cases inevitably have to be treated in haste and said that the Board has now discussed what the required minimum amount of information should be in order for Swedish authorities to receive and treat Ebola patients.
“This is all so new that we have to discuss it. One thing we’ve learnt is that we have to be prepared to make decisions on significantly vaguer grounds than we previously expected,” Sandwall said.
The Swedish government has now classified Ebola as a public-health hazard, which gives Swedish authorities greater power to combat the disease. For instance, if an infected person arrives by airplane, authorities can keep the other passengers behind to inform them about the disease and contagion.
The law also permits more extreme measures, such as enforced quarantines, if necessary. However, the chances of Ebola spreading in Sweden are still regarded as very low.
Previously, only two diseases have been classified as public-health hazards in Sweden: Smallpox and Sars.