Czech Republic initiates request for foreign aid, asking Germany, Switzerland and Poland to accept patients

Adverse development of the epidemic situation is continuing in the Czech Republic in relation to COVID-19. The high number of infected patients is continuing to exert pressure on the health system and the number of people requiring hospitalisation is on the increase. The capacity for the provision of inpatient hospital care has already been exhausted in most regions. This has led the Czech Republic to initiate a request for foreign aid, having contacted Germany, Switzerland and Poland asking for their cooperation with the placement of patients.

The Ministry of Health already reacted to the adverse situation in the past with an order to suspend non-urgent care and also to ensure use of the National Inpatient Dispatching Centre for the transport of patients between regions. However, despite this, the high number of positively diagnosed patients requiring hospitalisation has meant that the capacity in hospitals in the majority of regions has already been exhausted. Due to this fact, several hospitals are unable to ensure that patients receive the usual standards of care provided to them.

To date, 14% of the beds in intensive care units and anaesthesiology and resuscitation departments are still available, this coming, however, at the cost of a virtual suspension of elective care. The intensive transport of patients between regions is also underway, the National Inpatient Dispatching Centre implementing even dozens of transfers every day. Use is also being made of volunteers from the Czech Red Cross, healthcare and medical students as well as members of the Czech Army to bolster staffing levels.

“Despite the maximum possible increase in bed numbers, maximum use of all available healthcare staff and enormous efforts on the part of all paramedics, the capacity for the provision of intensive care for inpatients has already been exhuasted in hospitals. Hospitals in some regions have already used up their capacity and are no longer able to provide adequate care to patients without the help of other facilities, or to accept new patients,” says Health Minister Jan Blatný, describing the situation in the hospitals.

This is why the Czech Republic has initiated a request for foreign aid in reaction to the current situation in the hospitals and lack of intensive care beds.  Germany, Switzerland and Poland have been contacted with a request for help placing dozens of patients. Certain formal conditions must be met for the placement of patients in foreign countries. The process also needs to be coordinated in cooperation between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The attending physician makes the decision on actual transport to a foreign country and sends an EU form to the Ministry of Health with a request for transport. The Ministry of Health then enters the form in the early warning and response system EWRS. The hospital then arranges the patient’s medical documentation in the language of the recipient country and gains the consent of the patient for transport to a foreign country. If care abroad must be paid for, the health insurance company approves this,” says Deputy Health Minister and Head of the COVID Clinical Group Vladimír Černý, describing the administrative process.

“The foreign medical facility subsequently sets a date for admission of the patient. The hospital sending the patient arranges transport, or this is handled by a healthcare service provider which has the necessary material and technical equipment as well as a permit for transport. Transport is paid for by the Ministry of Health which then asks the EU for a refund of these costs,” adds Deputy Health Minister Vladimír Černý. The whole process of transporting the patient to a foreign country is shown in the attached graphic material. This is a universal model, the details of which may differ in certain countries.

The decision on the provision of intensive care must exclusively be made on the basis of an expert assessment of its benefit and in line with the respective professional standards, the existing legal framework and the ethical principles of medicine. No request has yet been made for the transport of any specific patient, but the system has been clearly set up.

“We have found ourselves in a situation which none of us wanted to be in. I would like to ask everybody to also contribute towards an improvement of the situation in Czech hospitals. They can do so by strictly adhering to the anti-epidemic measures and limiting their social contact as much as possible. Only in this way will it be possible to help our healthcare workers and relieve the pressure on the hospitals,” adds Health Minister Jan Blatný.