2. Ensuring sufficient physical infrastructure and workforce capacity
ENSURING SUFFICIENT PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND WORKFORCE CAPACITY is crucial for dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, as there may be both a surge in demand and a decreased availability of health workers. The section considers the physical infrastructure available in a country and where there are shortages, it describes any measures being implemented or planned to address them. It also considers the health workforce, including what countries are doing to maintain or enhance capacity, the responsibilities and skill-mix of the workforce, and any initiatives to train or otherwise support health workers.
2.1 Physical infrastructure
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, there were altogether 526 intensive care unit (ICU) beds available. The capacity has been increased gradually to a maximum level of 1,050 ICU beds in May. As the demand decreases, the number of available beds has been reduced proportionally and is now at the same level as before the COVID-19 outbreak. Several regions and municipalities reported shortages or the risk of a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and sampling material, such as protective masks, visors, and safety clothing. The National Board of Health and Welfare has been assigned by the Government to be the national purchasing centre for medical supplies, protective equipment and certain medical technical equipment, and there is currently a stock of protective gloves and hand sanitizers. On May 4th, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) was assigned by the Government to support regions, municipalities, companies and other actors with transport and logistics regarding protective equipment and other equipment.
From April 1st, retail pharmacies are restricted to sell only enough medicines to provide for a patient’s care for a three month period. This measure is implemented to counter stockpiling among the public and reduce the risk of pharmacy shortages. In order to help reduce the risk of a lack of vital drug treatments for humans, for example in intensive care, the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the Swedish Medical Products Agency urged veterinarians to strictly follow the cascade principle when prescribing medicines for animals. From July 8, this restriction has been removed.