“Women get worse healthcare than men”

Good news for some Swedish pensioners this week. Dagens Nyheter revaeled on Monday that from the middle of November some elderly patients will be able to sample the very best in private health care in Mallorca.

In real terms, though, this means approximately ten pensioners will get to spend two weeks at Font Sana elderly people’s home in central Palma whilst the politicians and local municipalities back home figure out whether it’s okay to pay Spaniards to take care of elderly Swedish patients just because its cheaper than doing it in Sweden.

Naturally, there’s a fair amount of scepticism among Swedes.

Physiotherapists Mona Sjölund, Camilla Westerberg and nurse Anette Lindholm wondered, in an email to DN, if the whole “idea of geriatric trips [to Spain] wasn’t just some kind of April Fool’s joke.”

“None of our patients could even get on a plane,” they fumed. “Let alone make use of the swimming-pool or gym facilities.”

Still, those patients lucky enough (or should that be ‘healthy enough’) to make the trip, accompanied by suitably trained staff, will find Font Sana to be well-equipped and furnished to the “standard of a four star hotel”.

Although DN reported that the “thirty or so politicians and civil servants” who’d been on a study visit to Mallorca to check the place out are “enthusiastic” about the possibility of elderly Swedish patients spending a spell on the Costa del Sol, tax-payers among readers might be forgiven for wondering why Sweden even has to consider sending the elderly there in the first place.

On Tuesday Aftonbladet’s female readers had a dose of bad news to swallow: “Women get worse health care than men,” proclaimed the headline.

The tabloid has discovered that when it comes to health care, women “have to wait longer for an ambulance, are hit more severely by side-affects from medication which is tested primarily on men, have to wait longer for cataract operations, are often not diagnosed correctly following heart attacks and receive cheaper and more out of date medicine.”

The trouble is, as many researchers and doctors are willing to testify, there’s a lot of resistance to admitting the problem. Apparently, it’s even harder to do anything about it.

By Wednesday Aftonbladet were so frustrated with the situation that they started a petition to send to Health Minister Ylva Johansson demanding “equal health care for men and women”. To give it extra weight they put a picture of the dashing actor Sven Wollter (70) striking a rugged pose as he signed the petition, alleging even he had had “personal experience of discrimination”.

And in another blow to the somewhat battered public image of Sweden’s health system, most papers picked up on the news reported in Trelleborgs Allehanda on Tuesday about a woman who had the wrong kidney removed at Mas in Malmö last spring.

Apparently, the ultrasound pictures taken in Trelleborg were misinterpreted by the surgeons who read them back to front. The more trickily positioned right kidney was removed, whilst the more accessible left

kidney was untouched.

Fortunately the patient made a full recovery, but the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare sharply criticised the lab and hospital for causing the mix-up.

However, Ulf Nyman, head of the X-ray department in Trelleborg claimed the Board’s criticism was unfair, insisting that the Board should get off his colleagues’ backs and put more emphasis on ensuring that only top rate machinery used in Swedish hospitals.

“It’s only human to make mistakes,” he said, “and to avoid them we need to demand clear warning signals from suppliers.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet, Trelleborgs Allehanda

Jon Buscall