Sweden: Polish Dentists and Thai DoctorsVia Geopolitical Review:
Polish Dentists and Thai Doctors
Like "the Polish plumber", who in France has come to symbolize the challenges of low-cost services from new EU members, Swedes are grappling with the phenomenon of Polish dentists and Thai doctors, who are offering services at half the cost of their Swedish competitors. While Stockholmers with toothaches are flocking to "City Dental", which opened earlier this month in the heart of the capital and is staffed entirely by Polish dentists, not everyone is happy. "Is this the beginning of the end for the Swedish model?" asked Marja Torsteinsrud, a dentist from Vaesteraas, west of Stockholm, in an irate letter to the Dagens Nyheter daily this week. "In the short term the winners are those who buy services cheaply, but in the end only businessmen and profiteers will benefit."
"It's a challenge," admitted Ingemar Olsson, spokesman for the Swedish health ministry. "But the government has always said that it welcomes competition when it happens in a fair way, according to the laws," he told AFP. Reports have suggested that the team of Polish dentists would leave Sweden before six months are up to avoid paying Sweden's exorbitant taxes and social charges, to be replaced with a fresh team, which will also stay for just six months, and so on. Within weeks of the Polish dentists arriving, a hospital in Thailand opened up an information centre this week in Stockholm to persuade Swedes to travel to Thailand for private care and skip long public sector queues at home. "In Sweden, the waiting period for an operation or treatment can be anywhere from two to 80 weeks," Leif Erre, the head of the Swedish company RelaxU which is organizing the trips, told AFP. Despite the controversy, the challenge to the Swedish healthcare model "should not be exaggerated", the health ministry's Olsson said. "The real challenges are political, for example if the conservatives win the next election and start privatizing hospitals. That would be a real threat," he said.