‘Unprepared, ill-equipped to deal with pandemic’: Panel finds Sweden’s failure to protect elderly during Covid-19
An official commission in Sweden has said the high degree of community spread and ill-preparedness of elderly care homes are likely to be the major cause of the large number of deaths among the elderly community during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Reuters.
Sweden followed a ‘no-lockdown’ stance and insisted on following stricter social distancing and sanitation practices when many other countries were imposing strict lockdowns. The country also decided to ‘ring-fence’ or isolate completely from exposure the elderly from Covid-19, however, the death toll increased amidst the elderly, especially in the nursing homes. While it did find some initial success in controlling the virus, mounting deaths prompted an investigation into the situation.
The commission called out the previous and current governments for inaction over already known structural problems in the care system for the elderly and blamed them for being ultimately responsible. It also mentioned that the overall spread of the disease could be another leading cause for the death toll. “These shortcomings meant that elderly care was unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with a pandemic. The employees in elderly care were largely left alone to handle the crisis situation,” the commission said in a statement.
Nursing home residents account for a little less than half of the almost 7,700 Covid-19 related deaths in Sweden. “We also assess that the measures were insufficient in several respects,” the commission noted when referring to the intervention by government and agencies in protecting the elderly and said that the measures had arrived too late.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven admitted the failure in protecting the older people but said that the regional authorities, and not the central government, are responsible for health and elderly care.
The commission’s findings come after the Health and Social Care Inspectorate had warned of serious shortcomings in Sweden’s elderly care, noting that only six per cent of nursing home patients were examined by a doctor.
Deaths per capita in Sweden is found to be more than its Nordic neighbours despite remaining lesser than some European countries that imposed lockdowns. Sweden has reported 320,098 overall Covid-19 cases and 7,667 total fatalities so far.