EUREGHA welcomes the European Commission’s guidelines on EU Emergency Assistance in Cross-Border Cooperation in Healthcare related to the COVID-19 crisis. The European Commission calls on national, regional and local health authorities to make full use of:

– existing structures and mechanisms to work together to assist patients in need of critical care by offering available hospital bed capacity, and

– available health professionals who constitute the backbone of our health systems and to enable them to share expertise and skills working hand in hand with health professionals across borders.

It alleviates overstretched healthcare facilities in Member States in need and where it does not put the functioning of their own health systems at risk.

The guidelines include commitments from the European Commission to assist health authorities with:

  • Coordinating requested and offered intensive care places for patients and appropriately qualified medical personnel through the Health Security Committee and the Early Warning Response System (EWRS);
  • Coordinating and co-funding the emergency transport of patients and appropriately qualified teams of medical personnel across borders when Member States request assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism;
  • Providing clarity on the reimbursement of healthcare costs for treatment in another Member State in line with the Social Security Coordination Regulations;
  • Providing clarity on arrangements for patient mobility across borders: transfer of patient records, continuity of care and the mutual recognition of prescriptions in line with the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive;
  • Encouraging local, regional and national health authorities to use, where existing, bilateral and regional agreements and contact points to relieve the burden of critical care units treating COVID-19 patients in the neighbouring region;
  • Encouraging Member States or specialist non-governmental organisations to send appropriately qualified teams of medical personnel across borders.

The guidelines include information on the Health Security Committee to coordinate cross-border assistance and the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) to coordinate and co-fund the transport of patients across the borders. The coverage of the healthcare costs will be administered by the Social Security Coordination Regulations, but the European Commission calls upon the responsible authorities to not request any prior authorization from the competent social security institution when dealing with COVID-19 emergency healthcare. The guidelines furthermore ask for healthcare arrangements for those cross-border patients including shared patients summaries and ePrescriptions via MyHealth@EU.

EUREGHA appreciates that the Commission Communication points out that the Interreg programmes provide border regions with a maximum of flexibility and good infrastructure to cooperate in healthcare. These infrastructures can now be utilized to tackle the pandemic. The documents show examples of cross-border healthcare practices, including those of EUREGHA Members Lower Austria and GGD Limburg. Lower Austria / Healthacross Initiative is arranging the dispatch of ambulances between Lower Austria, South Bohemia and South Moravia via emergency control centres. The Euregio Meuse-Rhine set up a tri-lateral crisis management centre located near Maastricht (the Netherlands), Aachen (Germany), and Liege and Hasselt (Belgium).

We will keep sharing cross-border healthcare examples within the upcoming weeks and further invite regions to share their practices. By understanding the importance of #RegionsAgainstCovid19, we can better face barriers and improve the efficiency and quality of health care systems and services for patients living in border areas.

Find the Communication in all European languages here.