5 University Hospitals in Finland Implement New Isolation and Transport System

All five university hospitals in Finland have implemented the new isolation and transport system. With EpiShuttles at all hospitals, Finland stands better prepared to face new pandemics or chemical and nuclear threats.

As one of the actions to increase Finland’s preparedness, the five university hospital districts jointly procured the so-called EpiShuttles. This Norwegian invention isolates a contagious patient while being treated.

‘We are implementing a highly efficient tool to transport patients with highly contagious diseases or chemical, biological or other contamination necessitating isolation. The single patient isolation and transport unit are designed to provide maximum public safety while allowing critical care and treatment to be performed on the contaminated patient inside.’

‘When needed, the unit can be used for patient transport through air, land and sea in collaboration with the Finnish Border Guard and Defence Force units, keeping society safe; Tom Silfvast, chief medical officer at the Preparedness Unit at Helsinki University Hospital, said.

The procurement of the nine EpiShuttles is financed by the Government and steered by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The new equipment will be used in all the five university hospitals’ areas covered.

Ready for the next pandemic

Back in 2018, the WHO made a list of 10 diseases with the potential to cause a public health emergency. On that list was disease X, a pathogen currently unknown. As it turns out, disease X was the coronavirus. However, the threat of yet another new pathogen emerging has never been greater.

With this new technology, we stand better prepared for a new pandemic. Contagious patient logistics are complicated. Finland has a lot of remote areas, and transporting contagious patients fast over long distances into hospitals for treatment is a severe challenge.

After each transport, the time-consuming disinfection procedures of helicopters, aircraft, and ambulances threaten capacity. Not knowing what comes next, the EpiShuttle is our best option. Sanna Hoppu, associate professor and chief physician at Tampere University Hospital, now stand ready to deploy if needed.

Safe transport of contagious patients is essential when handling the epidemic. The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recommend such medical countermeasures as the EpiShuttle represents at a ‘Disease X dummy run’, the so-called Event 201.

‘Patient transport to where ICU capacity is available has proven to be a crucial piece of the puzzle when handling a pandemic. Only when safe transport is in place can we utilise the full capacity of the entire health care system and ensure treatment for everyone,’ Ellen Cathrine Andersen, CEO at EpiGuard, said.

The WHO R&D Blueprint Special Advisory Group said: ‘History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before.’ This still goes on, and a Disease Y can surface at any time.

The UN Humanitarian Response Depot (UNHRD) holds six EpiShuttles to transport contagious patients safely. Congo was the first place they dispatched during the Ebola outbreak. UNHRD offers storage at no cost at six strategically located locations near major ports and airports.

EpiShuttles are used by WHO and first responders in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Peru, Ireland, Greece, Norway, and the UK. Also, national air forces like the British, Australian, Canadian, Danish, Norwegian and others are equipped with EpiShuttles. In the private sector, EpiShuttles are a common sight among companies like FAI air ambulance, Air Alliance Medflight, DRF Luftrettung, Keewatin Air, Luxembourg Air Rescue, Loganair and others.