Systemic deficiencies in elderly care in Sweden, combined with inadequate government and service measures, have contributed to the high number of deaths from Covid-19 in the country’s nursing homes, according to a preliminary report released today by an official committee.
The Nordic country has stood out internationally for its strategy of tackling the pandemic without imposing lockdowns, other strict restrictions and the use of masks. Authorities left schools, restaurants and businesses largely open, simply asking citizens to stay away from the community and maintain good hygiene.
When announced during the spring, the strategy was combined with the goal of protecting seniors from Covid-19. But as the death toll rose, especially in nursing homes, the commission was appointed to evaluate pandemic measures.
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,” Matt Malin, chairman of the commission, told a news conference.
“The government should have taken steps to ensure that care for the elderly was better equipped to deal with the pandemic.”
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.
Sweden’s pandemic strategy has been described as reckless and harsh, but has won praise for being more sustainable and business-friendly.
Protection measures for the elderly are late
Slightly less than half of the approximately 7,700 deaths from the new coronavirus in the country were recorded in nursing homes. The victims were elderly people living there.
The commission’s report also points out that government measures to protect the elderly taken in the spring came too late and were inadequate.
“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,” Malin said.
“The government should have taken steps to ensure that care for the elderly was better prepared for the pandemic.”
Prime Minister Stephen Leven defended the overall strategy, but acknowledged that Sweden had failed to protect the elderly, although he noted that the health and care of the elderly was the responsibility of the regional authorities and not of the central government.
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.
Social Affairs Minister Lena Halengren said the Social Democrat and Green government was preparing new legislation to regulate care for the elderly.
Sweden has a much higher mortality rate than its neighbors, although lower than some European countries that have tightened restrictions.
Source: ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ / Reuters