By Nordstjernan columnist Ulf Nilson, December 2010

In Sweden we have what you call in the United States "socialized medicine." This is a little story of how it sometimes works.
My mother-in-law recently and suddenly became very ill, feeling terrible pain in her stomach and a growing dizziness. After some attempts to comfort her we decided that we had to go to the emergency room.
We arrived just before 6 in the evening. I should add that at this time of year it is pitch dark at that hour. Also, this year we have more snow than in the last 150 years. That is: snow everywhere. So much snow that the people charged with keeping the roads open can't cope. My house in a suburb of Stockholm is blocked by a wall of snow; we simply can't get in, so we're staying with my mother-in-law in a slightly—ever so slightly—better kept part of town. Driving, however, is extremely dangerous.
The giant hospital complex in Huddinge, near Stockholm, was established during a time when everything was giant and centrally directed.
We got to the hospital and were met, almost immediately, by a young and (dare I say it?) very beautiful nurse. She quickly took my mother-in-law's temperature, various samples and lots of blood. Then we were placed in a cubicle to wait.
And wait, and wait.
As we sat there, the corridor outside became more and more crowded. In the snow and darkness outside, people had fallen, broken their legs, got into fights and crashed their cars. It was a Sunday, and only two doctors were at work. We never saw them, but they must have been truly exhausted. The patients and their companions milled around, some obviously in great pain. The nurses rushed around and everything seemed disorganized.
We waited. And waited.
My mother-in-law, who was in pain, slept fitfully. We walked around, trying not to disturb her, but after four hours, my wife, Aino, who is braver than me, asked a nurse what was going on. The answer revealed—among other things—that this was a “good” day ... wait until Monday, when the heavy hooking starts. She also said the two doctors were the only ones working on the dozens and dozens of patients.
Crisis. Would we have to stay way into the night?
The tests, a nurse said, showed that my mother-in-law was not critical. Sick, uncomfortable and in pain, but at no risk of dying. After a while Aino and a smart nurse came to the conclusion that it was better to return home and call the emergency service of another hospital in the morning. So, after some six hours in the system, we were home again, tests done, but nothing more.
And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to write. So it goes and when this is written in the morning after, Aino is on the phone, trying to negotiate an appointment at that other hospital.