The Lombardy region of Italy is in desperate need of health-care personnel due to the coronavirus emergency. Norway is now sending a medical team to the region.
‘We have a handle on the infection situation in Norway, while Italy is at the peak of its crisis. It is an appropriate time for us to assist a country facing enormous challenges,’ said Bent Høie, Norway’s Minister of Health and Care Services.
On 31 March the health authorities in the Lombardy region requested hospital staff assistance, such as physicians and nurses. Norway is now sending an emergency medical team to Northern Italy.
‘Solidarity in Europe is not a theoretical exercise, and now is the time to show what it means in practice,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide. ‘We must help each other when crisis strikes, and since Italy is one of the hardest-hit countries it is good to be able to help it now. The medical team we are sending to Italy is similar to the teams we sent last year to the Democratic Republic of Congo during the Ebola outbreak and Samoa during its measles outbreak. Our offer to send a medical team was very positively received. Earlier today I spoke with my Italian colleague, Luigi Di Maio, who wished to express warm thanks for the help.’
Health service unimpaired
The decision to send Norwegian health personnel to assist Italy now was taken with awareness of the COVID-19 situation in Norway. Norwegian health authorities have assessed the situation in Norway as manageable, even though the expected peak of contagion is still some time away.
‘Our contribution is based on the intensive-care capacity in Norwegian hospitals not being impaired. We are sending out 20 to 25 nurses, physicians and logistics personnel. They come from hospitals scattered throughout the country, and the burden for each hospital will be small, while the team’s value in Italy will be substantially higher,’ Mr Høie said.
He said he was grateful that Italian physicians, despite being overextended, have taken the time to join videoconferences and share their hard-earned experience with Norway. Norway is dependent on European solidarity to manage this crisis, and is helped by having access to infection control equipment and medicines.
‘It has made us better able to plan for what is coming. The Norwegian team will bring home knowledge and experience that the Norwegian health service will benefit from,’ Mr Høie said.
The Foreign Minister added: “We are also receiving excellent help from other European countries in this crisis. Norway is a member of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which is now assisting European travellers, including Norwegians, to return home. This is how we have been able to get Norwegian citizens home from Peru, Colombia and Nepal, among other places. The Nordic countries have also been cooperating very closely to get our citizens home.’
The team will be back in Norway and finished with quarantine before Norway reaches its expected peak period.
The group is being sent under the leadership of the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB) with support from the Directorate of Health. The Norwegian health personnel will strengthen the Lombardy region’s local health-care system, probably in Bergamo. The team is self-sufficient and will remain in Italy for four weeks.
Under Norway’s Emergency Medical Team (EMT) cross-sectoral readiness scheme, the country can offer health teams to assist in international crisis management. The Directorate for Civil Protection is responsible for the team in cooperation with the Directorate of Health.