The Finnish State will ensure the sufficiency of protective equipment throughout the country
On 23 March 2020, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health decided that, under current emergency conditions related to the coronavirus pandemic, it is justified to take into use the medical supplies and protective equipment stored in the state emergency stockpiling.
Through this measure, the Finnish State wants to ensure that there is enough protective equipment to protect healthcare and social welfare professionals throughout the country if the epidemic gets worse.
Protective equipment primarily means personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare personnel caring for patients with confirmed or possible SARS-CoV-2 infection, such as face masks and shields, respiratory protective devices, surgical masks, medical gowns, etc. These are stored both regionally and in emergency stocks.
National Emergency Supply Agency will distribute protective equipment through five hospital districts
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has asked the National Emergency Supply Agency to decentralise medical supplies and protective equipment to the five university hospital districts in Finland. The hospital districts will coordinate the decentralisation and use of the supplies in their own catchment areas based on needs testing. Each hospital district will also distribute the supplies to the healthcare and social welfare services of the hospital districts, municipalities and joint municipal authorities in its catchment area.
In the first phase, each university hospital district (i.e. catchment area for highly specialised medical care) will receive a quantity of protective equipment that is proportional to its population base. After that, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will make decisions, based on needs testing, on the distribution of supplies.
Finland is well prepared
Finland is prepared for the coronavirus epidemic, and there is a good number of personal protective equipment needed for examining and treating coronavirus patients. PPE are not running out. According to the emergency plans of the hospital districts, different operators have basic stocks. Protective equipment are available throughout the country, but equipment can be transferred, if necessary, to a region where there are more cases of the disease than in other regions.
Other preparations concerning medical supplies have also been made in Finland. In addition, with regard to some medicines used in inpatient care for prolonged treatment of coronavirus patients, hospitals have already purchased more stock than usual.
In addition to new equipment, Finland also has PPE with expired dates but stored in good conditions in emergency stockpiling and tested by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in February 2020.
Emergency stockpiling is continuously supplemented
As the state emergency stockpiling starts to distribute protective equipment to the five hospital districts, the stocks of the National Emergency Supply Agency will be supplemented.
Personal protective equipment needed to protect against coronavirus infection is currently available on the international market through several channels. In addition, the possibility of launching the production of some protective supplies in Finland is currently being explored.
Finland will as soon as possible join the Joint Procurement Agreement to procure medical countermeasures, an agreement concluded between the EU Member States and the European Commission. The agreement is a means of implementing joint procurement of equipment, active pharmaceutical ingredients and other medical countermeasures of the Member States that are parties to the agreement.
The use of personal protective equipment is monitored to ensure the sufficiency
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is monitoring the consumption of PPE together with the National Emergency Supply Agency and the university hospital districts. The sufficiency of PPE will be ensured, among other things, by providing more guidance and controlling the use of protective equipment.
The university hospital districts are responsible for ensuring that they have up-to-date information on the medical supplies and protective equipment consumed and needed in their catchment area.
Personal protective equipment should be used only when needed, not just in case
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health stresses that all operators in the health and social sector must comply with the national guidelines on the appropriate use of protective equipment.
Healthcare and social welfare staff should wear a surgical mouth/nose mask and protective gloves when treating or caring for patients with respiratory infection, for example in prehospital care, hospitals, health centres, units for long-term care and treatment or in home nursing. When treating other patients or clients, it is sufficient to ensure good hand hygiene. Those working in home care shall use a mouth/nose mask to protect the client against any disease carried by the staff.
Laboratories have their own instructions on taking samples from persons who are suspected to carry the coronavirus.
The Ministry emphasises that private operators must ensure, in accordance with their own responsibility, that they have a sufficient amount of PPE in their stocks and that their stocks are supplemented.
Pekka Tulokas, Director for Preparedness
Please submit your interview requests by email to address monika.kankaanrinta(at)stm.fi
Kirsi Varhila, Permanent Secretary
Please submit your interview requests by email to address nina.tuominen(at)stm.fi