Doctor shortage

Today we had our first visit to the local doctor. We have noticed for some time that Hanna seems to tire easily, and she recently complained of being puffed out just from singing in the school choir. Although neither Maria nor I have ever witnessed any real breathlessness, we thought her complaints were worth a checkup, maybe a blood test to make sure she was not anaemic. She often look pale, and despite a reasonable appetite seems slow to gain weight. She is 10 cm shorter than Samuel.

The doctor, who was clearly of foreign origin – Pakistan, I guessed from his accent – checked her over and could find nothing of concern. He ordered some blood tests and the nurse took blood. He said he would write to us with the results in a week. We went home, satisfied that there was probably nothing much of concern happening, and that it was probably OK to push Hanna a little harder when she complained she was tired (usually when cycling up the hill!)

Every area of Örebro has its own state controlled general practice, called the Vårdcentral – that is, “care centre”. The doctors and nurses are all paid salaries, being government employees. Children under 16 are treated free of charge, and adults pay a small amount (equivalent to about twenty Australian dollars) for a consultation.

Brickebacken vårdcentral is probably like most others, perhaps not as busy. There are two doctors working there. It was hard to work out how many patients they see. We were in the office for about 20 minutes and with the nurse for a while too. The whole place seemed very quiet, a marked contrast to my old practice back in Tamworth at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. There were a few people drifting in and out of the waiting room. There was no-one waiting to see the nurse. The one receptionist seemed to wander in and out and I seldom heard a phone ringing.

The corridor was white and looked sterile and cheerless. The doctor’s office was utilitarian and boring. A desk, a computer, an examination couch, the usual mess of folders and books on some shelves. It looked a fairly unpleasant place to spend your days. Again nothing to compare with Barton Lane Practice, with our big windows looking out onto lawns and the sunny outside world (of course it was dark when we were there!).

Can’t say I felt a wistful longing to return to my profession in the near future. Not in Brickebacken, at least.

Mind you, we only waited two weeks for a routine appointment. From the consumers point of view we got what we needed. But I at no point felt any real connection with the staff. They showed no real interest in us as individuals. They were not unfriendly, just un-engaging.

There is a doctor shortage in Sweden, as there is throughout the Western world. Both the doctors in Brickebacken are overseas trained doctors. Both plan to leave the practice next month. I have no idea whether they will be replaced, nor what the local citizens will do if there is no-one there. I guess there are other vårdcentrals to attend.

There are a few private general practices in Örebro. I have no idea how they work, or if they have trouble attracting doctors. Hopefully I will be able to see them too at some stage. There is a GP at Sörbykyrkan, the church where we go for dinner on Wednesday nights. She works as a locum all over the district, and has invited me to “follow her” one day when she visits a neighbouring town called Lindesberg, one of her regular workplaces. So I will hopefully get to see some small town medicine too.

I’m still not sure that I want to be a GP in Sweden. Despite the shortage. I have talked to the doctor in charge of the Travel Vaccination Clinic in town about working there. He was not negative. But all depends on my getting registered, and that is dependent on Swedish, so I must keep studying. I am far from fluent, but it is coming slowly.


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