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Shortages of key skill in the Swedish healthcare sector threatens the economy

Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Doctors, nurses and special key healthcare operatives will be in short supply in Sweden in the coming few years. To be specific, Sweden will run out of more than 4000 doctors and 5000 nurses, something that has been seen as one of the key challenges to the Swedish healthcare system and the economy in the coming years.

Within that, will be the lack of specialist doctors, according to a forecast by the Swedish national Board for health and welfare which the Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter came across.

The problem of skill shortages in the Swedish healthcare system is not new. But it will get acute in the coming years. Already today, the lack of pathologists is already seen as problem which is keeping cancer patients waiting longer before they can be seen by one. This makes Sweden to keep on building longer waiting lists and queues in their healthcare system.

Pathologists are medical specialists who make cancer diagnosis by studying the tissue or cell samples. Today there are 189 full-time positions for pathologists in the Swedish hospitals, but there is the need for at least a hundred more. This is what was recently presented by the Swedish Cancer Society in a recent survey. The consequence is that many will have to wait longer for their test results.

Looking back, ten years ago, a cancer sample was ready in five days. Today, patients wait up to a month to get similar results.  This leads to much concern among patients. For those who, for example, have a brain tumour they can be longer on the waiting list and this will result in poor chances of survival.

In the past 10 years large numbers of retirements has been gradually occurring within the pathologists department. But demand is increasing,  not only for the pathologists but for other skill in the healthcare sector. Over the next few decades, the proportion of elderly in Sweden according to Ministry of Social Affairs is to increase from 17 to 25 percent.

With improved health, longevity increases and more diseases can be cured by new medical advances, but there is still increasing pressure on the Swedish healthcare system.
According to long-term projections carried out by the Swedish ministry of Social Affairs system, human resources in health care for the elderly will increase by nearly fifty percent over the next decades.

“The healthcare sector is facing great challenges. If nothing is done we will need an additional 4000 doctors and 5000 nurses already by 2023,” said Anders Ekholm, who is chief analyst at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

The biggest deficiency is in the specialist trained doctors. This is according to a forecast by the Swedish Board of health and welfare has made on the request of the Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter.

It shows that the deficit of doctors can be great in general medicine, psychiatry, internal medicine and gynaecology and this would run up to 2025. This despite the fact that the forecast takes into account that the training places of those skills will increase in coming years. Even less professional groups, as pathologists and neurologists, may have problems to be attained.

“We can become totally dependent on immigrant doctors to cover up the gaps. Even today, one in five doctors working in Sweden is trained abroad. But it is doubtful that immigration will continue to be as high as today. Raising the retirement age may be a way to solve part of the problem, "said Eva Wallin, who is head of the Swedish national Board for health and welfare.

In the pathology laboratory in Link�ping Medical School, Dagens Nyheter could already notice ten specialists being trained with background from Sweden, Australia, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Brazil and Sudan. It is not clear how many of such mix is being trained in other medical schools across the country.

The county councils are responsible for the training of medical specialists. Their planning often extends only five years. The conditions also differ between different parts of the country.
“The metropolitan regions are more likely to recruit, not least their proximity to universities and colleges is of great assistance. Nurses would like to continue their education at home, while for the doctor, it has to do with increased mobility, "said Ann-Sofie Bennheden, who is staff director of Region healthcare system in Sk�ne, southern Sweden.

But according to the Ministry of Social Affairs, the increased demand for medical care in the future would not only be solved with the employment of more staff. Both care for the elderly and other forms of healthcare provision may be more effective in which healthcare is provided in a better way and at lower costs.

This can be done with the adoption of new technology. It makes it possible, for example that patient can self-manage certain tests at home. County councils should also increasingly help each other through so-called telemedicine. This may mean that the X-ray images are sent for assessment by a doctor in another part of the country or the world to another one using new technology.
By Scancomark.se Team

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