The Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported Friday that Sweden is grappling with a nationwide shortage of facilities to care for babies that are born before term.
The paper interviewed a couple hoping to welcome their new family member in Uppsala, in southeast Sweden. However much like a nativity story that took place ages ago, they were told that there was no room and they were sent to Turku, in southwest Finland to give birth.
According to DN, because of the lack of facilities three expectant mothers have been sent to Turku during the month of December so far.
Birth rates rising in Sweden, falling in Finland
Neighbouring Sweden is experiencing somewhat of a baby boom, while birth rates have been steadily falling in Finland. Pediatrician Erik Norman of the Uppsala academic hospital said that the lack of treatment facilities for premature babies in Sweden was due to the rising birth rate and that care for premature babies had developed so much that a higher proportion of babies born before term tend to survive. He also pointed to a shortage of nurses capable of caring for premature infants.
The mother interviewed by Dagens Nyheter said that the decision to send her to Finland had created some stress. She said that she also encountered language problems because ambulance staff spoke only Finnish and English.
Neonatal specialist Liisa Lehtonen of Turku university hospital said that the institution wanted to help because it had room. She said that it had previously been a long time since mothers from Sweden had been sent to Finland.
Sweden reportedly has only a limited number of places to care for infants born before the 28th week of pregnancy. According to DN, the facilities are located at six central university hospitals.
Swedish health minister critical
Speaking to DN, Swedish Health Minister Gabriel Wikström criticised local city councils in charge of health care for not properly planning care for premature babies. He said it was unacceptable that mothers had to be sent to Finland to give birth.
"Parents who are expecting should not be sent abroad to give birth," Wikström told the daily.
The minister said he was surprised that the situation in the Swedish health care system was so bad. He said that the Swedish government had earmarked 500 million Swedish crowns (approx 52 million euros) to improve maternal care and to increase the number of care personnel.