Polish dentists offer Swedish patients services at half price

Polish dentists are taking Sweden by storm. The first private dental clinic employing specialists from Poland has opened in Stockholm to the applause of patients and some mixed reactions from Swedish dentists annoyed by the emergence of cheap competition. Krystyna Kolosowska reports from the City Dental clinic in Stockholm.

'I'm at City Dental, a newly opened private clinic, which is employing Polish dentists and which offers services at half price. The place is truly bustling with activity and is set to be a huge success.'

City Dental, Sweden's first cheap dental clinic with Polish dentists made a start with a bang on the 15th of November 2005. The reaction to its ads, which appeared around Stockholm, in the streets and on public transport as well as the mass media, probably surpassed all expectations. City Dental's founder is Mattias Santesson. When I turned up at its door in Drotningsgatan, I knew immediately I must be in the right place, because of the number of prospective patients asking for information and booking appointments. And I was told that all times were booked for the next 3 weeks. City dental employs 10 Polish dentists. I talked to one of them as he emerged from his room to invite a new patient.'

'Yes, I am very glad that I can work in Sweden, in Stockholm. It's great. We already have 2,000 patients, or even more. We have to work hard but I can earn more than in Poland, that's why I came here.'

This doctor earns some 30 thousand Swedish kronor a month, which is definitely not a bad salary. The patients are even happier. It's good to be able to fix a hole in your tooth without making a hole in your wallet.

'It's very good. It's cheaper than here in Sweden. It's very good for us.'

A Polish patient, a young woman who lives in Stockholm, was glad about the prices, too.

'This clinic has prices 50 percent lower than elsewhere in Sweden. That's why there is such a big demand for their services."

The Polish doctor seems to have won the hearts of Swedes. Poles are not only cheap but also skilled and ready to accept patients in the evenings and during weekends, something unheard of in Sweden up to now. The price factor is also important. Over the past few years the prices of dental services in Sweden have gone up by 60 percent. The snag is that the medical insurance covers only 30 percent of the cost, forcing many Swedes, especially pensioners, to go for medical tourism and have their teeth fixed in Poland or Latvia. Santesson had a good idea to make their life easier and bring Polish dentists to Sweden.

But it's not only dentists that Sweden needs, I heard from Leif Lindberg, a senior administrative officer in the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, which is in charge of employing medical personnel.

'Sweden has a need for doctors, especially for general practitioners and specialists in psychiatric care. So even before the introduction of the free movement of labour in Europe, Sweden had recruited doctors from Poland since 2001 by special permission from the Swedish Market Board. There's still a need for more doctor and nurses, and in the latest times, also for dentists. It's very much due to demographical changes in Sweden. Many Swedish doctors, nurses and dentists will leave the labour market at the age of 65 in the next six to eight years. So I think we have a great need for more doctors, nurses and dentists.'

Other medial workers are also needed. Leif Lindberg says Polish doctors, nurses and dentists enjoy a good reputation in Sweden.

'They are very well received, and I think it has to do with the fact that they had been trained for at least six months in Poland in the Swedish language, and also in the Swedish health care culture. So many patients say that it's easier to see a Polish doctor who speaks good Swedish than seeing a Danish doctor who is working part time and who doesn't speak very good Swedish.'

A growing number of Polish medical personnel are interested in working in Sweden. In 2004 more than 200 doctors applied for the so-called recognition in Sweden, which is the first step to getting a job.