More than 2,500 nurses and health professionals across Sweden walked off the job on Monday in a wage dispute, their union said, leading to closed emergency wards and cancelled operations.
"Everyone agrees that our work is necessary to provide good and safe care, but not everyone agrees on what this is worth," Tor Enqvist, a spokesman for the Swedish Association of Health Professionals, Vaardfoerbundet, told AFP.
The action affected more than 50 hospitals and healthcare centres, as nurses, midwives, biomedical scientists and radiographers called for wage increases of 1,700 kronor (288 dollars, 181 euros) per year for 2008 and 2009.
The minimum monthly wage for Sweden's 90,000 nurses is 20,000 kronor (3,386 dollars, 2,130 euros), while the average is 24,994 kronor (4,231 dollars, 2,662 euros).
Vaardfoerbundet said the current wage levels do not accurately reflect the three years of training that nurses must undertake.
The union has warned a further 1,000 members are on standby to join the strike, which could last up to two weeks in some locations.
The nurses are employed by an umbrella group for local Swedish municipalities, which has branded their action "unfortunate" and labeled their demands as unreasonable.
While ambulances were being redirected due to the strike, the union said essential care was still being provided, albeit with some minor disruptions.