Swedes set to occupy closing maternity ward which inspired ‘car birth’ course

Citizens of a northern Swedish town which is about to lose its only maternity ward plan to occupy the building in protest against its impending closure.

Swedes set to occupy closing maternity ward which inspired 'car birth' course
Protests against the closure of the maternity ward in Sollefteå also took place last summer. Photo: Mats Andersson/TT

When the ward in Sollefteå, northern Sweden closes for good on Wednesday, expectant mothers in the sparsely populated area will have to travel over a hundred kilometres away to Örnsköldsvik or Sundsvall to give birth instead.

In protest against the cost-cutting measures, locals plan on occupying the building from 18:00 on Monday.

“People are sad and angry. They are taking away security from a place where people have chosen to live,” Sebastian Gunnesson, a spokesperson for the protest told news agency TT.

“This is awful and that's why I've pulled this occupation together. I don't know what else could get the attention of our local politicians,” organizer Anna Marica Ek, who gave birth to her son Vincent at the maternity unit two weeks ago, explained.

“The occupation is a completely peaceful protest where we will be present at the entrance hall. We will sit there as long as necessary and annoy the county council until they give up and open the word,” she added.

The decision to close the maternity ward was taken last autumn, with the county council arguing that recruiting competent staff has been difficult and the closure would save around 15 million kronor ($1.69 million).

Ewa Back, the chairperson of the health and medical board at the local council argues that it will not put patients at risk.

“We have received results from thorough investigations which prove that you can do this without risking patient safety,” she said.

Two of the midwives at the soon to close ward disagree however. Earlier this month they grabbed global headlines after launching a course teaching expectant parents what to do if they have to go through the process of giving birth in a car.

“If you think that it will be something between 120 and 200 kilometres to the nearest maternity ward, it's winter, it's dark, there's a bad mobile signal… anything could happen on the way. Car accidents, the car could break down, you maybe drive off the road. You have to be ready, and the worst could happen even if it is very, very uncommon,” course leader Stina Näslund told The Local

“They think they will save millions of kronor by closing the ward. For me, personally, it feels like they are cutting the lifeblood of a society,” she added.