Swedish Armed Forces prepared to support health care services in case of a third wave

If Sweden enters a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Swedish Armed Forces will stand prepared to support the health care services with medical supplies. The Armed Forces Centre for Defence Medicine in Gothenburg has prepared 21 intensive care unit beds, 21 regular hospital beds and medical equipment, should the National Board of Health and Welfare request assistance, in accordance with the regulations on the Armed Forces’ support to civilian activities.

Lastning av sjukvårdsmateriel
Lastning av sjukvårdsmateriel
The Swedish Armed Forces practises loading a patient for helicopter transportation. Photo: Astrid Amtén Skage/Swedish Armed Forces

Following the deconstruction of the field hospitals last autumn, the equipment was packed in three different batches, consisting of three intensive care unit beds, three regular hospital beds and related equipment. The batches are ready to use directly, when necessary.

“So far, this equipment has not been requested by the regions. But it is kept here in case of future needs”, says Commander Fredrik Utterström at the Joint Operations Staff. He adds that the regions have handled the situation by means of their own resources and by assisting each other, thus managing to increase the number of intensive care and regular hospital beds temporarily.

Swedish Armed Forces provide air transportation

The Swedish Armed Forces supports the health care services in Blekinge and Västra Götaland regions, with ambulances and ambulance drivers. It is also possible to request helicopter and air transportation of Covid patients. The helicopter and aircraft are provided with back-up equipment such as ventilators and syringe pumps, to allow for safe transportation.

“We packed the equipment in this way in order for it to be used directly, should we receive a request from the National Board of Health and Welfare", says Commander Fredrik Utterström.

The field hospital and its personnel have not been placed in readiness. Putting them into service will therefore require a two-week period of preparations. The Armed Forces is not allowed to assume health care provider responsibility without specific permission. A legislative change would be required in order for the Armed Forces to be able assist health care services with vaccination, for example.

“Instead, we support society by not summoning health care professionals to exercises or refresher training during this difficult period of time” says Commander Fredrik Utterström.