An elderly woman in a Swedish nursing home went without eating because none of the carers working that day spoke Swedish well enough to understand she was hungry.
The incident took place last Sunday in the municipality of Östersund when the elderly woman contacted her “good man”, a Swedish term for someone appointed in a trustee or guardianship position.
She told her guardian that she had not been able to eat and had requested a sandwich from the staff, but no one had helped her because they did not speak adequate Swedish. She confided that she felt worried as a result of not being able to communicate, news website Samhällsnytt reports.
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The trustee called up the nursing home and confirmed that none of the staff working at the time spoke Swedish. He later called another department and found out that the regular staff were not there and substitute workers were filling in for them.
After being contacted by the trustee, a Swedish-speaking worker from another department eventually came to the home and gave the woman food.
The local municipality blamed the incident on the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, saying that many of the regular staff were calling in sick. But they said all substitute workers were mandated to have a certain level of Swedish, both spoken and written.
Earlier this month, the Swedish Health and Care Inspectorate said that poor Swedish language skills among nursing home staff increased the risk of infections and deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus.
Currently, there are no language requirements to work in elderly care homes in Sweden. But two populist Sweden Democrat politicians in the Umeå municipality have called for language tests in their area.
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The language barrier has also been blamed for the higher coronavirus infection rates in Stockholm’s vulnerable no-go areas, which have high migrant-background populations.
In April, it was reported that the suburb of Rinkeby-Kista, notorious for riots and crime, had the most cases per capita in the city at the time.