Corona-crisis : what is the situation behind the scenes of medical care?

As a digital platform and pioneer/proponent of sustainable and simpler procurement, Xatena is busy with Europe-wide enquiries due to the corona crisis and is drawing valuable insights for the national and international supply chain.
In times of crisis, it is usually clear whether an existing system and well-established processes are proving their worth and where there is still room for improvement or changes are unavoidable.

In the current crisis, the following goods are in short supply and are at the top of the procurement lists of health care providers: protective equipment (protective masks, protective gowns, protective goggles and gloves for operations and examinations), capital goods for intensive care units (ventilators, CPAP ventilation, SP02 patient monitoring systems, syringe pumps) and disinfectants. The WHO warns of supply shortages. The EU prohibits the export of materials from Europe.
China, the first country to be affected by the crisis, had already reacted in January by buying up what was available. What is the situation in the individual European countries in mid-March?

  • Europe’s most affected country, Italy, is expanding its search for products internationally. In addition to hospitals, various government agencies and state-related companies are involved in the procurement process. The pressure is high: the production rate of ventilators has quadrupled; ventilator stations have already been rationed.
  • To ward off the epidemic, the German government has purchased medical supplies worth 205 million euros for the German health system. Among these were mainly protective equipment and disinfectants. 10 million protective masks will soon be distributed to health care providers. 10,000 respirators have also been ordered from the medical technology company Dräger.
  • The government in neighbouring France confiscated stocks of protective masks as well as the ongoing production. Further production was nationalized.
  • In Portugal, the regulatory authority Infarmed procures medical devices internationally for the Portuguese health system.
  • Switzerland defines focus clinics for the corona virus. Switzerland has far too few ventilators or intensive care beds for this emergency situation. The dilemma for Switzerland is the dependence on foreign countries for the demand for protective clothing and the capacity utilization of suppliers.

And so it goes on.

The current situation and the state of emergency show throughout Europe that there is a lack of transparency and thus an asymmetry of information about what is actually needed where. Supply chains in Europe are geared towards efficiency and less towards security of supply. What makes the situation even more difficult is the confusion between private sector supply and state intervention. In crises like this one, the next higher level always automatically takes over coordination. As a result, it becomes even more difficult to maintain an overview and moves further away from the usual operational environment. The limited availability of urgently needed goods in combination with the problem that people in positions of responsibility do not want to be accused afterwards of not having done everything in their power, leads in the current crisis mode to an inefficient distribution of resources in the fight against the virus.
From the observations made above, it is clear that transparency in supply and demand is extremely important and should not be underestimated, especially in times of crisis. Therefore, existing means such as platforms should be used in a more targeted way to achieve this transparency.
In the crisis is before the crisis: conclusions will be drawn. Especially the fact that a globalised economy and territorial nation-state crisis management are highly problematic opposites. Once the crisis is over and lessons are learned, this antagonism must be put on the table and the chance that digitalisation can create transparency with regard to supply and demand across borders must be discussed.

Source: FT.com, T. Buck D. Ghiglione, European countries search for ventilators as virus cases surge, 15.03.2020, https://www.ft.com/content/5a2ffc78-6550-11ea-b3f3-fe4680ea68b5