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The chaos in Swedish Health Care System Posted by on Mar 19, 2018 in Living in Sweden

Health care in Sweden is largely tax-funded, a system that ensures everyone equal access to health care services. Challenges include funding, quality and efficiency of its health care services. Waiting times for pre-planned care, such as cataract or hip-replacement surgery, have long been a cause of dissatisfaction. As a result, Sweden introduced a health care guarantee in 2005.

This means all patients should be in contact with a community health care centre the same day they seek help and have a doctor’s appointment within seven days. After an initial examination, no patient should have to wait more than 90 days to see a specialist, and no more than 90 days for an operation or treatment, once it has been determined what care is needed. If the waiting time is exceeded, patients are offered care elsewhere; the cost, including any travel costs, is then paid by their county council. In 2015, health and medical care represented 11 per cent of GDP like in many other European countries. (source: sweden.se)


Well the question is whether we should be satisfied with the 90 days limit. It has several times happened to me that the doctors in primary care didn’t want to do the medical examination regarding several different symptoms because of lack of time. I was told to book another appointment. Saving money and time is a standard issue in Swedish health care, which at first glance isn’t a problem and understandable but the savings targeting the patients and not other sectors in health care. Without going into any personal details I had to spend approximately six month being untreated because different doctors time after time just didn’t tick in all the boxes for blood or urine tests because it is expansive and unnecessary to do all the tests once you have described your symptoms and a doctor (läkare) made up his or her mind regarding your state of health. The issue is with those diffuse symptoms where you can’t really have the economic view as the first priority. Especially if your symptoms wouldn’t end. Because even between seeing your doctor or doctors (because you can’t make sure it is the same person nowadays) from the same health care center you might end up waiting seven or fourteen days going around with acute symptoms. Or wait those are maybe not acute after a few weeks or moths but chronic ones. We know also that isn’t that easy to leave work all the time, but after this experience (erfarenhet) I won’t really care anymore. I should have cared on the first place not having my job as my very first priority. Sounds a bit bitter or maybe harsh I know but we all should make a living and not live for the job itself.

After running the wrong tests I heard from time to time that there wasn’t anything wrong with me and it will pass. You have to be aware of that a doctor can’t treat the same symptoms more than three times with the same treatment or medication. Since I knew that and my symptoms wouldn’t stop I had to be very persistent (ihärdig). In general I think it is one of the most tiring thing to be a persistent individual. You know people who doesn’t understand that is a no is no and trying to find there way in and around things. That is how I felt after several weeks and months that I needed to be that person to be taken seriously and that is wrong. I have talked to so many people who experienced the same thing that they need to be a bit more persistent and aggressive as usual when visiting the doctor. Physical examination whether it is a flue, tonsillitis or something else is less common nowadays when the doctors only have ten minutes to listen to you when booking an acute time and not a regular one. Everything is calculated, measured, counted.

Most places have a shortage of doctors (brist på läkare) in Sweden, especially on the countryside and that situation is often legally misused by some medical locums (stafettläkare). Medical locums commute sometimes between their regular job and some job at a far off place in for example Norrland. It is a very noble thing being a doctor helping patients. It is a lot of responsibility, stress and it should be therefore paid really well in my opinion but of course there is also the ethical side to the story like in every other profession where you decide to work with people. Being a nurse, a teacher or social worker are also professions like this. That’s why I think it is unheard of that a doctor last year demanded 80 000 SEK for 3 days seeing patients in Norrland. I also found this article at Göteborgs Posten where it is stated by a doctor that he earns between 80-90.000 SEK in a week working 25 hours long shifts. I know very few professions where it is okay to work this much in a row. The unions don’t really like it either and also it is not only unhealthy for the doctors but it is easier to make mistakes during such a long shift. Saving money doesn’t seem to be an aspect in these cases which I not only find bothering but also unethical.

Some other articles:

From SVT (Swedish Television)

From The Swedish Radio  



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  1. Or Cohen:

    What about private medicine is Sweden?

    • Tibor:

      @Or Cohen Well it is bit complicated, the primary health care center isn’t private but all the specialist are where I belong to here in the city.

  2. Sussan:

    all of this easily happens with US “healthcare system” regardless – but if you are very wealthy you can crack the whip & make it work as you want it.

    • Tibor:

      @Sussan That is a very sad development we have seen not at all equal, but you see on the other hand it isn’t easy over here either. People have the same chance to get help but get the help is not easy.

  3. Barb:

    I am a nurse in the USA and your story does not sound very different from many here. Except it also will cost you a lot of money here or if you have no money or insurance, you won’t have to worry because you won’t get any appointment.

    • Tibor:

      @Barb Yes it feels like you need to do something radical in the american health care system as it is now.