The Swedish healthcare system is primarily government-funded, decentralized and universal for all, although private health care also exists.
Swedish healthcare is financed mainly through taxes levied by municipalities and county councils. The country has 21 councils that run the primary and other healthcare segments.
The quality of Swedish healthcare is among the finest as evidenced by the fifth-highest life expectancy in the continent and highest cancer-survival rates in Europe.
Sweden does not have fledgling private healthcare. Instead, it is a rarity. Even those present work under the councils. A conscious effort is taken by the Swedish governments to limit the presence of profit-seeking private firms in healthcare.
Not everything is not honky-dory with Swedish healthcare. Swedes are getting frustrated that despite spending 11% of their GDP, their universal healthcare, one of the main pillars of their long-cherished welfare state is tottering.
Sweden has some of the longest wait rates in the continent. This is mainly caused due to the acute shortage of nurses and the availability of doctors in certain areas.
Lose TimeSwedish law stipulates patients should undergo surgery or specialist consultation within 90 days. This is far from reality as every third patient has to wait for much more than that.
Swedish law also states that a patient must see the GP with seven days (second-longest deadline after Portugal in Europe). Despite these laws, waiting times dramatically vary across the 21 counties in the country.
The average waiting time across Stockholm's largest hospitals was four hours on an average.
Another major grouse amongst Swedes is the inability to see their regular doctors, which results in a lack of continuity. This happens because a significant chunk of nurses and doctors are temporary hires.
The shortage is so severe that there is nearly an 80% shortage of nurses in the healthcare sector, according to official data. Also, every time a Swede seeks medical help, it is a new doctor which results in loss of time in making assessments and requisite follow-ups.
This shortage has resulted in the mushrooming of online telemedicine services where a doctor assesses the patient via webcam, have mushroomed as a result.
Most Expensive HospitalThe healthcare sector already reeling under the staff shortage has also been grappling with increasing costs. Increasing costs have resulted in the authorities closing the only maternity ward in Solleftea, a town with 20,000 residents.
Solletea is incidentally Stefan Löfven's northern hometown. The nearest maternity ward is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) away.
Despite pumping a lot into healthcare, Sweden has seen a decline in the number of hospital beds as well as the average length of hospital stay.
Frustrations boiled over when Swedes learned that Stockholm's New Karolinska Hospital would cost them 61.4 billion kronor ($ 6.7 billion or €5.8 billion), making it the world’s most expensive hospital.
Despite spending so much, the authorities had to shift patients to other overcrowded hospitals, as certain sections in the new hospitals were not usable.
Things Are Not Seeing ImprovementAs far as the proverb “light at the end of the tunnel” goes, Swedish healthcare is yet to see the light.
Making matters worse for Swedish healthcare, the country is witnessing the inclusion of nearly 70,000 elderly Swedes (75 years or older) which means growing healthcare needs.
During elections, Premier Stefan Löfven’s Social Democrats promised to spend 3 billion kronor in hiring more healthcare staff, while the opposition Moderates, planned to enact a law which would reward counties that takes steps for shortening queues.
However, critics are not amused by this as they say it will lead to easy cases getting priority.
All said and done, it will be fair to say that Swedish healthcare does require emergency help.