The Swedish welfare state is currently experiencing an existential crisis. This is particularly evident in the rapid decline in the quality of healthcare that is financed through taxes and provided by the state.

GD/AD – 09/2017

Up to 30 percent of hospital bed capacity is made unavailable during the summer because of staff taking holiday leave. 


As reported in the daily newspaper 'Svenska Dagbladet‘, 'staff shortages have hit an all-time record’. This has a direct and serious impact on patients and their chances for a full recovery. Obstetrics, general surgery and psychiatry are the areas most extremely affected by the lack of medical and non-medical staff, as well as the administrative downsizing of capacity. For example, bed capacity in public hospitals has declined by approximately ten percent to 18,800 beds over the last eight years. Large hospitals, such as the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg, have been forced, according to employee representatives, to postpone around 30 percent of planned medical procedures and care services due to administrative mismanagement. 

In remote, sparsely populated towns in northern Sweden such as Umea, Lycksele and Skelleftea, which already have structural problems of their own, around 30 percent of bed capacity is simply closed down during the summer. Otherwise, it would not be possible to ensure the right of staff to take leave when the weather is pleasant enough. Nearly all care-intensive areas of hospitals across the entire country are affected: the southern Swedish region of Skåne is also suffering from dramatic shortages in cardiological care. For example, the Ystad Central Hospital had to leave intensive care patients in cardiology unsupervised because it could not recruit enough staff through internet advertising campaigns and extra penalty rates. 

Staff leaving for Norway

According to many involved in the system, state hospitals and social healthcare organised by municipalities, have been ‘politically’ controlled for years. There has been insufficient consideration of working practices of doctors and nurses. As a result, many healthcare professionals have been migrating elsewhere. Norway, with very similar organisational structures, at least offers the benefit of almost unlimited financial resources and significantly better remuneration. 


With just a year to go until the Swedish election, this means a rather unwelcome public discussion for the minority government of Social Democrats and Greens.