Europe stands united in providing emergency medical care.

UM – 04/2020

The effects of the corona crisis are hitting European countries with varying degrees of severity. In order to cope with urgently needed medical care in some countries, patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are increasingly being treated across borders, including in Germany. The European Commission consulted with the Health Security Committee (HSC) on this issue and published guidelines on 3 April.

Alleviating overburdened healthcare

‘We can only overcome the coronavirus crisis together’, said Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides at the launch of the guidelines on the cross-border treatment of COVID-19 patients and the deployment of medical staff. The aim of the guidelines is to help relieve the pressure in certain regions, organise medical care across borders, and prevent healthcare shortfalls. The guidelines also make reference to financial aid provided by the European Union (EU) through the Solidarity Fund and the Structural Funds.

The EU has experience with epidemics

If assistance is needed, a country can put in a request to the HSC, whose task is to respond quickly to serious cross-border health threats. The European Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) will coordinate requests for cross-border assistance related to intensive care places and the transfer of patients or medical personnel where appropriate. The EU has a history of dealing with SARS, influenza pandemics and other crises. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is intended to coordinate and fund cross-border transport in emergencies. The EU Commission is encouraging Member States to send medical personnel across borders and to mutually recognise professional qualifications.

Essential – coordination legislation

The guidelines also provide guidance on the reimbursement of healthcare costs for medical services provided across borders. This will be done through established mechanisms and existing legislation on the coordination of social security systems in Europe. In view of the coronavirus crisis, Member States are being called on to apply the rules in a pragmatic and unbureaucratic manner, particularly as regards prior authorisation and proof of social security cover.