Criticism of the Swedish government, accusing it of failing to protect the elderly from the Covid-19 pandemic, is set out in a preliminary report released today by an official committee.
The report points out that systemic deficiencies in the care of the elderly combined with inadequate measures by the government and services contributed to the high number of deaths by Covid-19 in nursing homes in the country.
“This aspect (of the pandemic response strategy) that focused on protecting the elderly has failed. “There is no other way to see the fact that so many died from Covid-19,” Mats Malin, chairman of the committee, told a news conference.
“The government should have taken steps to ensure that care for the elderly was better prepared for the pandemic,” he said.
The committee noted that previously known structural problems in the elderly care system, for which authorities, regions, private care providers and municipalities share responsibility, are responsible for the many deaths.
“But we want to point out that the government is the one that governs the country and has the ultimate responsibility,” Malin, the committee’s chairman, told a news conference.
At the same time, the committee noted the poor training of staff and the low level of nurses and doctors in the care of the elderly and stressed that previous governments also contributed to the shortcomings.
The commission’s report also points out that government measures to protect the elderly taken in the spring came too late and were inadequate.
Slightly less than half of the approximately 7,700 deaths from the new coronavirus in Sweden have been recorded in nursing homes.
In November, the Swedish Association of Health and Social Welfare Inspectors announced that it had identified “serious deficiencies” in elderly care – only 6% of cases examined were Covid-19 patients in nursing homes that had access to a doctor.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Leuven has admitted that the way his government handled the first wave of the pandemic and assessed the dangers of not taking adequate action was wrong.
Speaking to the newspaper Aftenposten, Leven said there had been a “poor estimate of the rate of spread of the virus”.
Leven defended the overall strategy, although he noted that the health and care of the elderly was the responsibility of the regional authorities and not of the central government.
The Swedish health authorities had chosen not to impose a national lockdown during the first wave, keeping businesses in all sectors open and making more recommendations to citizens on compliance with hygiene and social distancing rules.