Why do all the northern regions have severe health and social care staff shortages? Did nobody see this coming yet again? As Norran has reported, to deal with this shortfall of qualified staff, both the municipality and Region Västerbotten often offers extra money to existing staff to reschedule their holidays to solve the summer staffing puzzle.
How much does this cost? This summer, it's at least 26 million kronor, and that's only for the municipality. That is a staggering amount to pay out annually for what is, in essence, the result of poor planning. Because, despite some officials claiming this is a new phenomenon, it isn’t. It’s been going on for years, since at least 2016.
How can such a huge amount of money be wasted each year, without any thought of how to fix the issue?
We all know that the north needs to attract newcomers. And, undeniably, northern municipalities have been working hard to attract new people to the region in trades such as engineering and manufacturing, where many of the new ‘green transition’ jobs are being created.
But Norrland, as does most of Sweden, also needs nurses, doctors, dentists and care assistants. The need for these competencies is critical already: for instance, 100,000 northern Swedes are on dentists’ waiting lists, with many having to seek emergency treatment in Finland.
This is an embarrassment, especially as the area is trying to sell itself to overseas candidates. If you factor in the targeted 100,000 or so new people over the next decade, how exactly will we look after those newcomers, if we can’t look after those already here?
The barriers to overseas medical professionals (and most other overseas professionals, too, if it comes to that) are notoriously difficult to surmount in Sweden.
It's one of the few real grumbles I have about living here. There's too much red tape and too little creative thinking. It needs to be easier for newcomers to find work in regulated professions such as healthcare, especially in areas, such as Norrland, which are struggling to cope.
This is where the vast amounts of wasted money should be spent. Obviously current staff should be paid more, and also be allowed to take a holiday when the rest of their family does without being shamed and bribed not to.
But we also need to streamline the regulatory process for overseas healthcare professionals, and offer them higher salaries, too. Obviously, this will not be an easy process as there are many organizations involved.
However, someone at a senior level needs to show the gumption to get the process started.
If you desperately need good people to help stave off a healthcare crisis, and if you want them to move somewhere they had never previously considered moving to, you need to pay them well.
Make a place welcoming to newcomers, make it easier for people to find work, and then pay them a good salary. Is that a magical formula, or just common sense?