A health care odyssey
in Sweden in the Covid era

Piero Letizia is a manager in retirement with a great passion for Fly-Fishing and Sweden. For 20 years he has been living half a year in Italy and half in the Scandinavian Country where he manages a Fishing Lodge and a Fly-Fishing School, where he guides and teaches fishermen from all over the world. Piero had the misadventure of feeling ill during the tragedy of the Coronavirus which also affected Sweden seriously. Here is his odyssey in Swedish health in the era of Covid-19.

Is Swedish healthcare an excellence? Mine was a very bad experience in the Östersund Hospital. A few days ago, I was in terrible pain. I thought of a possible renal colic, a nightmare of mine for many years. I wore, as usual, the protective mask and went to the peripheral health care structure of Föllinge Hälsocentral.

Swedish Healthcare, Piero Letizia

Piero Letizia

Upon acceptance, I am assisted by a nurse (without mask). The tests start: blood from the finger, urine sample, venous blood sample, E.K.G.. Then the doctor on duty (without mask) arrives. He makes questions and does some checks including the ultrasound screening. I underline to the Doctor that the pain of the probable renal colic has decreased but a pain on my breast appeared. Then he orders the nurse to inject Voltaren.

The urinalysis confirms the presence of blood, evidence confirming renal colic. But I also have a strange chest pain. Frightened, I wonder if the pain might have some connection to the Covid-19 which in Sweden is now widespread, but the doctor with a smile reassures me. However, he postpones the final judgment to the next day, to a phone call from him to comment on the results of the blood tests coming later. In the meantime, it requires an X-ray of the kidneys at the Östersund Reference Hospital. Before leaving the structure, I ask the doctor: «How come no one in the structure, nurses and doctors, uses the mask?». The doctor, smiling again and mumbling, answers: «Here in Sweden they have done everything wrong…. But it’s good that you wear the mask!».

Swedish Healthcare, An entrance of a Swedish Hospital

An entrance of a Swedish Hospital

During the night the chest pains get worse and extend back to the bust. Around 2 o’clock the pain is so strong that I think to call 112 for the helicopter emergency because of the distance from my house to the Hospital – 85 kilometers. I try to resist the pain that after an hour gets less and less so I keep calm until the morning. At 8 I receive the phone call from the doctor who confirms the negativity of blood tests but, when updated about what happened during the night, he suggests to go immediately to the hospital in Östersund. In the meantime, he will send the request to anticipate the x-ray examination. Once at the emergency at the hospital a new long procedure, due to the COVID’s event, will follow. When inside I am welcomed, once again, by two health professionals, one female a nurse and the second one a man, probably another nurse of higher level as he was doing questions and talking by phone time by time with another person, probably a “real doctor”! Well after several long minutes it seems to be the right time to proceed with an examination via a kind of ultrasound.

Swedish Healthcare, Patient in a Swedish Hospital

Patient in a Swedish Hospital

While the nurse is preparing, the man asks another question: «Did you throw-up or do you have to throw-up….?» I answer: «Yes I threw-up two days ago when I had the colic». Something happens. A one more phone call and then he orders to stop the examination and to follow the nurse. Soon I realize with dismay, to enter the area “RED ZONE – COVID AREA” The nurse doesn’t wear any protection as the basic mask but I do.

Waiting hall of a Swedish Hospital

Another sanitary is approaching, this time super protected by an almost spatial diving suit. He has a helmet, respiratory protection and anti-Covid technical clothing. He approaches with a plastic bag in his hand asking to vomit into! Fear increases due to sudden vision and lack of information. The sudden move to an area with a high risk of infection is incredible! I say to the “Martian” that I don’t have anything to throw up, the personnel in charge didn’t understand anything about my problem and they immediately transfer me to the emergency room from which, by mistake, I was coming from.