Healthcare in Sweden is comprehensive and affordable, but may operate very differently from your home country. Lysanne Sizoo provides the YLC guide to visiting a doctor in Sweden.
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Healthcare in Sweden is offered both privately (privat med vårdavtal) and through public centres (offentlig vård). However, contrary to what most foreigners perceive under the word private, the costs for visiting a doctor in first line care in either category are exactly the same, so a better description would be independent and public healthcare.
The general experience of most internationals is that the independently-run centres often offer a service-minded practice closer to what we are used to from home. It takes quite some effort to get a special licence from the authorities to be allowed to start an independent practise and it can attract the more enterprising and forward thinking doctors. You can find all their names and addresses listed (in Swedish) under www.privatvard.info. You can also find excellent information in English under www.vardguiden.se/Om-Vardguiden/International/English/.
First line care – GP surgery – house doctor
When you are settled into your new home, the first thing to do is to find out what selection of your local healthcare centres there are. They will be listed in the telephone directory under vårdcentral (health centre) and by looking at their websites you get a good idea of whether they are public or independent. Also ask around at school and in the neighbourhood to get a personal recommendation.
Once you have decided on a vårdcentral, you then ring them and ask if you can be registered. This is also when you can assess how foreigner-friendly they are: whether they will easily speak to you in English. However well you speak Swedish, my advice is that you find somewhere where English is also acceptable. Quite often, we don’t visit doctors because we’re slightly scared to and small barriers can make a huge difference to whether you go or not.
To register you and your family, you give your personal numbers and then, depending on the way the surgery works, you either go to the open surgery or make an appointment via telephone or even online. In Stockholm, adults pay 200 kr per visit, but costs vary per county. For children there are the special childcare sections at the healthcare centre (barnvårdcentralen) and treatment there is free.
Out of hours care – non urgent
If you need to see a doctor out of hours then you first check whether your health centre has a designated ’local emergency unit’ (Närakut) centre that they work with. Otherwise you can check online by searching ‘närakut’ and the place you live. Treatment costs 200 kr for adults and can be charged at 120 kr for children.
Both Astrid Lindgren hospital and Karoliska hospital also have a non-urgent out of hours section for children. The cost is 120 kr.
There is also a phone number that you can ring to receive advice on whether your emergency can wait until the next day. The nurses manning this phone line tend to err on the side of caution so be clear and specific about your concerns. The number is 08-320 100 or 1177. You can also check out this website.
If you become acutely ill or have an injury that needs immediate attention you visit Accident and Emergency at your closest hospital. You can find a list of the emergency centres here. Emergency care, depending on what need to be done, costs between 200 kr to 400 kr.
Calling an ambulance in the most urgent case can be done by ringing 112.
Specialists such as endocrinologists, gyneacologists, cardiologists, etc etc, also work either as part of the state system, or independently. Again, the costs are the same, but while you need a referral (remiss) for all of the public specialists, you can often book directly, without a referral, to most independent specialists. At www.privatvård.info you can find them under the name gruppläkarmottagningar or läkarhus. If you want to go the public healthcare route, you will be assigned a specialist by your GP surgery. Costs for specialist care are between 150 kr with a referral letter and 350 kr directly.
In addition, there are specialist clinics for sexual advice, so called Sesammottagningarna for both men and women.
Young people can go to so called Ungdomsmottagning up until the age of 24. These youth medical centres are staffed with midwives, social workers, doctors and sometimes psychologists.
All women in the fertile stages of life can also get specialist care at the Barnmorskemottagningen or mödravårdscentralen. This is where specialist pregnancy care can be given, as well as information and advice about contraceptives, smear tests, abortion advice, and other gynaecological concerns.
For a listing of all the updated 2013 fees, please click here. It is worth noting that Sweden operates a ‘high-cost ceiling‘ on fees, so that Stockholm residents will not need to pay more than 1,100 SEK within 12 months of their first consultation. There is a similar ceiling for prescription medication, which is set at 2,200 SEK. Ask at the doctor’s reception for your high-cost card, keep your receipts for prescriptions and make sure your costs are noted down on the card each time. Regular dental check-ups and care is not covered in this high-ceiling card, but other dental care may be on referral from your doctor – please check your individual circumstances.
Article: Lysanne Sizoo
Photo Credit: Flickr/Vic
Lysanne Sizoo is the founder and director of Turning Point, the only international counselling centre in Stockholm. In 2008 she obtained her psychotherapy license from the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. She has been practising as a counsellor and psychotherapist since 1997, specialising in the field of cross cultural issues, as well as fertility, bereavement, parenting, anxiety and stress management.