Coronavirus crisis: Sweden failed to protect residents in care homes
Share article:
Share article:

Coronavirus crisis: Sweden failed to protect residents in care homes

Sweden's Prime-Minister Stefan Löfven speaking to the nation on the crisis, 22 November, © Fredrik Ståhl/Regeringskansliet

A report published on Tuesday holds the Swedish government accountable for the structural problems in the retirement homes that resulted in the high number of COVID-19 related deaths among the elderly in the country.

The public commission of inquiry, the so-called Corona Commission, was appointed in late June to evaluate the measures taken by the government and the relevant authorities on municipal, regional and national level to contain the spread the of the corona virus. Its first report, focusing on the situation in retirement and care homes, delivers scathing critique against the government.

The government assumed that the system put in place to take care of elderly people in retirement homes would function during a pandemic and that there was hardly any need for extra measures or coordination at central level. The management of the crisis was delegated, as in normal times, to the Public Health Authority, with its chief state epidemiologist setting the tone.

According to the report, the responsibility to handle the crisis is shared by several actors on different levels but the government has the final responsibility. Both the current and previous governments knew about the problems in the elderly care.

“It’s the government which rules the country and therefore is responsible. It should have taken measures to better prepare the elderly care for the pandemic,” said Mats Melin, chair of the inquiry and a senior legal official and former chief Ombudsman. “The measures taken came too late and were also inadequate.”

The latest figures (15 December) show that about 90 % of the total fatalities – 6914 of 7667 – were 70 or older and more than half of them were living in care homes where staff was often insufficient or lacked training.

The final report is due in February 2022 but the interim report confirms previous reports in media about the shortcomings at the retirement and care homes. Managed by municipalities or private companies, with insufficient protective equipment and untrained staff, no-one in Sweden had an overview of the situation.

In an article in October in Dagens Nyheter, investigative journalist Maciej Zaremba interviewed responsible politicians and officials in the Stockholm Region. He disclosed that the guidance issued by the regional health care body during the first wave of the coronavirus deprived elderly people at care homes of their right to an individual medical assessment and hospital treatment.

Another report last November by the Health and Care Inspectorate (IVO) found that residents at care homes in all 21 regions of Sweden did not receive care and treatment according to their individual needs. In up to 20 % of the cases, the assessment was not done by a physician.

In the majority of cases where the advice of a physician was asked, it was done by phone without the physician having seen the patient. Relatives were not informed or consulted about the treatment which often excluded hospital treatment and consisted of palliative care which might have had the opposite effect.

Stefan Löfven, the Swedish Prime-Minister, agreed that the elderly care in the country was unprepared for the pandemic and that it has to become much stronger. He promised that that the lessons learned from the findings in the report would be drawn but was reluctant to admit any responsibility on behalf of his government.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Over 50,000 march against fascism in Rome
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against fascism in Rome on Saturday, one week after violent protests against the Covid certificate. Over ...
Will Brussels bounce back?
The lockdowns have tested the city and forced it to confront key questions about its future. Derek Blyth looks back at an extraordinary moment in our ...
Vaccinations: Belgium’s Health Minister currently not in favour of a general booster shot
The latest figures on new coronavirus cases are worrying, but rather than imposing new safety measures, what is needed is full compliance with ...
Thousands protest against the Covid health pass in France
Demonstrations against the health pass and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the Coronavirus mobilised tens of thousands of protesters ...
Record-breaking 770-metre highline installed in Freÿr, Belgium
A 770-metre long highline was installed at an altitude of 70 metres at the Freÿr Rocks on Saturday, setting a new Belgian record, according to ...
Huge cannabis farm discovered inside closed down Chinese restaurant near Charleroi
A cannabis plantation with several hundred mature plants was dismantled on Friday evening in a former Chinese restaurant on Chaussée de Bruxelles ...
Citizen founded wind turbine project launched in Liège region
A citizen founded wind turbine project was inaugurated in the Liège Region on Saturday by Walloon Energy Minister Philippe Henry (Ecolo) together ...
Five questions to philosopher Philippe Van Parijs on Leopold II and embarrassment in Brussels’ public space
The worldwide explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, combined with the 60th anniversary of the ...
Belgium to invest in sustainable heating in 2022
The federal government will set aside about one million euros in its 2022 budget for a social tariff for sustainable heating, Federal Energy Minister ...
Unfinished draft of new Astérix story discovered
The discovery of the unfinished draft of a cartoon album on the most famous of all Gauls, sketched by cartoonist René Goscinny, was announced by his ...
Anti-vaxxers demonstrate against Covid Safe Ticket in Brussels
Hundreds of supporters of the anti-vaxx movement gathered on Saturday outside the headquarters of the Pfizer pharmaceutical company to protest ...
Belgium’s investment funds total 260 billion euros in assets
Belgium’s funds industry grew by 5.3% (13 billion euros) in the second quarter of this year, bringing investment funds available to the public to ...