Swedish Healthcare Workers Are Quitting Alarmingly Fast As Number Of COVID-19 Cases Peak
Health workers in Sweden are not coping well with the strain that has arisen from the large number of COVID-19 cases. Many are quitting their jobs, thinking that this is the only way they can rest. Soon there will be a shortage not only of hospital beds but also of medical workers, the local labour union warned.
Sweden is facing a shortage of health workers, many of whom are quitting because of fatigue and exhaustion caused by the high volume of work due to the coronavirus, Sineva Ribeiro, chairwoman of the Swedish Health Workers’ Association, told Bloomberg. She calls the situation appalling and unprecedented.
The number of health worker layoffs this year has increased in 13 Swedish regions compared to 2019, a survey by TV4 (in Swedish) showed. Up to 500 people a month are leaving their positions in some lands. According to Ribeiro, even fewer qualified people are working now than in the spring, during the first wave of the disease.
Another problem is that nurses are increasingly reluctant to work to their limits in harsh conditions, given the relatively low pay, Bloomberg writes. « I spoke to members in August who said they would quit because it was the only way they could find time to rest and recover. We are seeing high levels of sickness, symptoms of exhaustion and people getting sick. <…> We don’t have the staff, » Ribeiro revealed.
The problem is also that the number of available beds in Sweden is decreasing. This week, ICU occupancy in Stockholm has reached 99%, Bloomberg noted. Because of this, the city’s authorities may have to ask the army and Scandinavian neighbours for help. But even if beds are added, the issue of competent medics remains, says Ribeiro: « With a person being so tired, the risk of mistakes increases. And these mistakes can lead to the death of patients ».
Sweden was one of the few countries in the world not to impose severe restrictions and quarantine during either the first or the second wave of the disease. The government has only issued non-obligatory guidelines. At the end of November, the Swedish prime minister rebuked the population for not heeding the recommendations. Swedes, meanwhile, don’t believe in the government’s ability to contain the epidemic anymore: the proportion of those confident in government action has dropped below 50%. At the beginning of December, the government advised children living under one roof with those infected with the coronavirus to stay at home and not go to school. Because of the « special way », Sweden has a much higher morbidity and mortality rate than its Nordic neighbours.