Karolinska University Hospital. Photo: Micke Grönberg/Sveriges Radio
Karolinska University Hospital. Photo: Micke Grönberg/Sveriges Radio

More staff, but less care at Stockholm hospitals

"You have to sit down, innovate and think about things in different ways"
2:15 min

The Stockholm County Council surveyed the largest hospitals in the greater Stockholm area, and found that, despite spending more money and having more doctors and nurses, they've been offering less care in the past few years.

"This report shows that we have never had so many doctors and nurses in our emergency rooms but, at the same, there's not an increase in care there matching the increase in personell," Anna Starbrink, on the health care committee in the Stockholm County Council, told Swedish Radio News.

The report also reveals that the county is in some cases paying double for health care - that is when a hospital's care is still costing money even within sectors where most of the care has moved to private companies.

So, what's the explanation? The culprit seems to be ineffective organization.

According to Starbrink, a massive amount of time and resources are going into things other than providing care. Doctors and nurses are being used incorrectly. One reason for this, says Starbrink, is that assistant nurses and medical secretaries have almost disappeared from health care, leaving doctors and nurses with more and more paperwork and less time for patients.

Melvin Samson, director of Karolinska University Hospital, told Swedish Radio News that the hospital is now rethinking its organizational structure and has already seen positive results.

"When you're not producing more care, when you don't see more patients and the costs go up you do have a problem in productivity," said Samson.

The Swedish Association of Health Professionals is aware of the problem but Eva Nowak, chair of the organization's Stockholm chapter, told Swedish Radio News that there needs to be a more comprehensive change in the health-care system, which she describes as old-fashioned and hierarchical.

"You have to sit down, innovate and think about things in different ways," Nowak says.

But she points out that it is difficult to be innovative and solve problems when hospitals in Stockholm lose between 170 and 320 beds every day.


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