Sweden Seeing “Unprecedented” Resignations In Healthcare Amid Second Wave Surge

Swedish healthcare workers are resigning at alarming rates.

The exodus from the industry has been so stark that the chairwoman of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals, Sineva Ribeiro, has called the situation “terrible”, according to Bloomberg.

Prior to the pandemic, the country was already facing a shortage of specialists and nurses, the report notes. Now, nearly a year into the Covid crisis and with Stockholm’s intensive care capacity hitting 99%, there are fewer qualified people available to work in healthcare than there were in the Spring. 

Members of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals have called it an “untenable situation”. Stockholm County’s Mayor has called the situation “extremely tense” and has acknowledged that there is a need for staff. She said on Friday: “There’s fatigue. You can’t ignore that, so it’s extremely important to get more people.”

But staff are so “desperate” for time off, they see resignation as their only option, the union has said. “We don’t have the staff to do it,” Ribeiro said. “I talked to members in August who said they would resign because it was the only way to get some time off and recover. We see high rates of sickness, symptoms of exhaustion and members who have been infected.”

And for the time being, there’s little idea as to where new capacity and staff will come from. Stockholm County has already asked for help from the country’s armed forces, but the military may not have the resources to help, either. Sweden is also asking neighboring countries, like Finland, for help. Finland has said it is ready to free up space for Swedish ICU units. 

Another reason that resignations are ticking up is that nurses only make about $33,600 in basic pay, which has made it easy to decide that working during the pandemic simply isn’t worth it. Recall, back in August, we wrote about EMTs leaving their jobs in “alarming numbers” in the U.S. due to the pandemic and the poor pay. 

Oren Barzilay, president of the FDNY-EMS Local 2507, representing New York City medics noted that about 60 EMTs had left the department between May and August. 

“They see the risks associated with the job and the low pay, and it’s just not worth it,”  Barzilay said. EMTs start at just $30,000 per year in New York and pay tops out at about $50,000. Nationally, the job pays just $38,830 per year on average. 

Alarmingly, Michael MacNeil, president of Boston’s EMS association said it’s not just older EMTs that are quitting. Rather, those with only a couple of years in the field are also leaving – and new positions are getting difficult to fill. He said: “We aren’t getting people interested and don’t have enough qualified applicants to fill available seats. We can’t fill the jobs.” 

Selena Xie, president of the Austin EMS Association, representing medics in Austin, Texas said that 25 EMTs had left through August, on pace to double the annual average of 30. Xie said: “We know for sure the virus is helping people make the decision that this is not an ideal job right now and that their own health and their family’s health is at risk.”