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Discrimination against ‘foreign’ doctors widespread in Sweden

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“When I was working in psychiatry, a patient cancelled his appointment with me three times because he didn’t want to be treated by a ‘foreign doctor’,” 30-year-old practitioner Navid Ghan told AFP.

“In the end he didn’t have any choice, I was the only doctor available.

During the appointment, even though he saw that I spoke Swedish without an accent, he told me ‘you foreigners, you don’t understand anything’,” Ghan said.

Ghan, whose name has been changed at his request to protect his identity, is not even a ‘foreigner’: he was raised and earned his medical degree in Sweden.

“Now my colleagues and I joke about it in the lunch room. The nurses arrive and say ‘they cancelled again when they saw your name’.”

Since 2010, as part of a broader reform to Sweden’s universal healthcare system that opened up primary healthcare to private actors, patients have been allowed to choose their own doctor and clinic.

Prior to the reform, Swedes were assigned a clinic based on where they lived.

But as tensions smoulder over rising immigration in traditionally homogeneous Sweden, the reform has made it possible for patients to refuse to be treated by non-ethnic Swedes.

Sweden has seen its immigrant population double in the past two decades, statistics show, and support for the far-right Sweden Democrats has surged to 20 percent to make it the third-biggest party.

‘Fair-skinned’
Lars Arrhenius is the head of Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman, a government agency that promotes equal rights and combats discrimination.

He said that choosing a doctor based on ethnicity is a “worrying development”.

At the end of March, 1,011 doctors and medical students signed an appeal in daily newspaper Expressen calling on “the responsible authorities to act against racism” in their field.

In July, the country’s largest broadsheet Dagens Nyheter published an investigative series exposing the scope of the problem.

Journalists posing as patients who had recently moved to a new city or town called 120 healthcare clinics and asked that their new doctor be an ethnic Swede.

READ ALSO: Opinion: The Swedish discrimination that dares not speak its name

A total of 51 clinics agreed to the request, 40 refused. Only a handful explicitly said the request was unacceptable.

“We have Maria, Sanna and Elsa. Three fair-skinned women,” one medical secretary told a journalist.

Gender Equality Minister Marta Stenevi, whose brief includes the fight against discrimination, told AFP the practice was “totally unacceptable”, after meeting various actors in the healthcare sector to address the issue.

The head of the Swedish Junior Doctors’ Association, Madeleine Liljegren, said clinics often consented to the requests because of “competition between healthcare clinics over patients.”

The more patients a clinic has, the more state funding it gets.

Lack of support
“The nurses likely think ‘I’ll agree to their request’ — as shocking and horrible as it is — just to keep the patient,” said Liljegren, noting that some clinics do not have enough patients to stay afloat financially.

Makih Fatelahi, a hospital doctor in the southern Swedish county of Kronoberg whose name has also been changed, says some patients are concerned about communication issues.

“The problem is that they only see your name when the appointment is made.

You don’t get a chance to establish an in-person contact before you get rejected,” the 28-year-old tells told AFP.

The number of cases of discrimination against doctors of foreign origin is not known.

In 2020, more than 3,500 general discrimination complaints were filed to the Equality Ombudsman, 1,146 of which concerned “ethnicity”.

Sweden’s health care system relies heavily on immigrant workers, who are often employed as nursing assistants. In 2020, 2,401 doctors received medical licences in Sweden, almost half of whom earned their degrees abroad.

Navid Ghan said he doe not feel supported by his superiors, even though they have seen the discrimination he has faced.

Many doctors with foreign names complain about a lack of internal procedures at their workplaces for how to respond in such situations. 

“You end up not paying any attention to (the discrimination). I use an algorithm to not let my emotions get the better of me: Does this patient really need my help? If yes, I take care of the patient and ignore the comments. If not, I ask a colleague to take my place,” Ghan said.



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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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