Countries had to react swiftly to supply their hospitals and health centres with essential protective equipment, including medical masks, gloves, sanitising products, and equipment needed specifically for SARS-Cov-2-related critical care, such as intensive care beds and respiratory equipment.
In March 2020, even though Hungary was not among the worst hit EU countries, the government still needed to protect the health of its population by stemming the infection rate. It also had to prepare for a possible second wave of infections. This proved crucial as Hungary was hit especially hard later in the year.
To help the country finance its emergency response, the European Investment Bank stepped in with a €162.5 million loan to the Hungarian government. It financed almost 500 different types of items required by the healthcare sector to avoid the spread of the disease and to treat patients efficiently.
“This was a special healthcare project for the Bank,” says the Bank’s Szabo. “Our projects usually involve hospital modernisation and health innovation, but these are extraordinary times. Recognizing the urgent need, we had to respond quickly to support the EU member states and help them deal with the coronavirus crisis in whatever way we could.”
Respirators, disinfectants, masks, ventilators, patient monitors. These are just some of the items the Hungarian government secured through this loan. “Nearly the entire loan went to medical equipment and supplies required for the day to day operation of health centres during a pandemic,” Szabo says.
The newly purchased medical equipment was distributed throughout Hungary.
Simple solutions for COVID-19 in Czech hospital project
The Hungarian crisis response is one of many COVID-19-related projects the EIB supported in the past year. The number of healthcare projects at the Bank tripled, compared to the previous year. The Bank’s 2020 health sector projects, however, were not solely focused on emergency response. Despite the unprecedented circumstances, we didn’t forget about our long-term healthcare infrastructure goals.
The coronavirus crisis has stretched local health services to their limits. The pandemic has also exposed their vulnerabilities and lack of preparedness. Inadequacies at older hospitals have been put under the spotlight, pushing local governments to address them.
This is why the EIB is supporting the Central Bohemian Region in the Czech Republic with a €48 million loan to improve its emergency preparedness and modernise its healthcare, transport, social care and education infrastructure.
More than half the money will go to the refurbishment and modernisation of five hospitals in the region, as well as the Central Bohemia ambulance service. The investment will result in almost 1.4 million people in the region having better access to improved health services. “The programme will enable these medical facilities to become more efficient, increase the quality of their services and contribute to energy efficiency and emergency preparedness,” says Szabo.