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Maternal death in Stockholm

June 14, 2015

At BB Sophia, a private maternity hospital

When BB Sophia, Stockholm’s second private maternity hospital, opened last year I applauded the increase in diversity, and anticipated competition driving up standards (click here). However, last week the Swedish TV channel 4 programme, Cold Facts, aired some serious allegations about safety there*.

The trouble stems from a birth on 24 August 2014. Gegie Boden had a difficult delivery, complicated by shoulder dystocia, and collapsed shortly afterwards. Recognition of her collapse was allegedly delayed, perhaps because staff were more concerned about the baby. She was soon transferred to the nearby state-run Karolinska hospital, where she died a week or so later.  Doctors interviewed on the programme, none of whom apparently worked at BB Sophia, alleged that intensive care facilities were substandard, and that the rules for the levels of intensive care required in private maternity units had been made less stringent to allow the clinic to open.

BB Sophia’s owners reject these claims and state they not only had adequate facilities for short term intensive care, but also a formal agreement with the Karolinkska to transfer patients needing longer term care. The Inspektionen för vård och omsorg (IVO), the Inspectorate for Health and Social Care, is investigating, but has not yet reported.

About five mothers die, out of the 100,000 or so who give birth in Sweden each year, one of the lowest rates in the world, so one death in a unit delivering 4,000 babies annually, while tragic, is not in itself evidence of poor care.  But a TV programme about it, quoting doctors publicly alleging substandard care, and aired before the official report is complete, suggests that private hospitals are under closer scrutiny than their government counterparts.

This may be a good thing. Unlike government hospitals, which are often “too big to fail”, private ones cannot afford to ignore public safety concerns.  I hope I’m not naive, but I remain optimistic that independent health care providers will drive up standards in the long run.

Jim Thornton

*Links here, here, and here.

 

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