The pandemic is making holes in the generous Swedish welfare state

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The shortages at Swedish retirement homes underscore how budget calculations have trumped social welfare, say those who have seen the overhaul.

“What this pandemic has done is demonstrate a number of system errors that have gone under the radar for years,” said Olle Lundberg, secretary general of Forte, a health research council that is part of the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. “We are totally dependent on the global production line and just-in-time delivery. The syringes we need today should be delivered in the morning. There is no safety margin. It can be very effective from an economic point of view, but it is very vulnerable.

Mia Grane was unaware of the systemic issues when she moved her parents to the Sabbatsbergsbyn home in the summer of 2018.

In their youth, her mother had been an Olympic swimmer. Now she was descending into Alzheimer’s disease. Her father used a wheelchair.

The house was in central Stockholm, a 15-minute bike ride from his apartment, with beautiful gardens that were used for the Midsummer Day celebrations.

“It was a perfect place,” Ms. Grane, 51, said. “They felt at home.

But his confidence evaporated as the pandemic spread. When she asked the nursing home staff how they planned to deal with the danger, it reassured her that everything was fine.

“I was like, ‘If this virus gets into this place,’ she said, ‘a lot of people are going to die.’

A week later, she read in a local newspaper that a prominent Swedish musician had passed away. He had lived in the same neighborhood as his parents. She called home and was told her father was suffering from cold symptoms. A test showed he had contracted Covid.

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