Emergency room at Stockholm's Södersjukhus, Photo: Jurek Holzer/Scanpix
Emergency room at Stockholm's Södersjukhus, Photo: Jurek Holzer/Scanpix

ER waits continue to grow

Waits at Sweden’s emergency rooms (A&E) have grown longer since 2010, according to a new report from the National Board of Health and Welfare. Only two of the country’s 70 emergency departments have reached the previous government’s goal of a maximum wait of four hours at an ER.

The time before an emergency patient can see a doctor has also risen.

The report says the country’s emergency departments have almost 2.5 million visits a year, which means almost 5 new patients every minute. The worst affected are older patients and those coming to larger emergency rooms, such as those at Södersjukhus in Stockholm and Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg.

The agency’s Mats Granberg tells Swedish Radio News that there are several reasons for the problem, for example too few local health clinics or under capacity. “Primary care clinics and social services can’t keep up with providing people with basic healthcare,” he says. “Instead they go to emergency rooms.”

The problem, he adds, can also be because emergency departments are working in the wrong way or have too few personnel. There might also be a shortage of beds at hospitals. “If there aren’t enough beds, and they need to free up one on a ward, it can take time and that prolongs the total stay at the emergency room.”

Former Social Affairs Minister Göran Hägglund has expressed his disappointment that the county councils, who administer the healthcare system, have not only failed to keep his government’s deadline, but that the lines have gotten worse.

The new red-green government that took over in September wanted to allocate more funding to healthcare, but its budget was voted down in parliament.

Healthcare Minister Gabriel Wikström tells Swedish Radio News they intend to introduce a similar proposal in the future: “It will be about freeing doctors and nurses from the time they have to spend on administrative tasks, so they can devote their time to meeting patients. Their job is to cure, help, and relieve.”

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