The PPE helped to protect frontline staff from the Covid-19 virus in hospitals, acute and primary care settings, testing centres, assessment hubs and residential care settings.
Before COVID-19, few workers needed to wear PPE and it was relatively straight forward to acquire. But from the moment the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the emergency in 2020, there was an immediate global surge in the demand for PPE and the HSE faced the challenge in competing globally to safeguard and secure steady supplies.
PPE pricing rose dramatically in a volatile market as the WHO reported requirements for PPE to be 100 times the usual demand with prices up to 10 times higher than normal.
In Ireland, the speed of this response was critical to support the provision of care required at multiple locations across the region. To assist with the purchasing of PPE in the HSE, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme in Ireland responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing a Health Support Scheme.
This fund was administered by the Northern & Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) which oversees the distribution of European funding in Ireland through its operational programme. The NWRA is one of three regional assemblies in Ireland.
The objective of the Health Support Scheme was to part fund the HSE’s efforts to secure and sustain continuity of access and supply of essential PPE.
In this regard, ERDF funding of €286,580,931 was made available for the procurement of essential PPE by the HSE in support of its Covid-19 response. Over €100m of this was allocated to the West and Border region.
Commenting on the success of the scheme as Ireland marks Europe Day (May 9), Director of the NWRA, Mr David Minton, said:
“Demand for PPE from global healthcare systems surged when the pandemic began. The immediate security of PPE supply lines in our region was absolutely critical to the pandemic response.
“With the extra European funding, the HSE was able to order and secure PPE supplies which added an extra layer of protection. The Health Support Scheme played a vital role in providing PPE in our region and protecting the health of citizens in member states. It is another example of how the EU continues to work for us.”
Cathaoirleach of the NWRA, Cllr. David Maxwell, said: “I am delighted on the occasion of Europe Day to acknowledge the vital support that Ireland and the Northern and Western region has received to fight the pandemic, through €100m via the ERDF programme and the successful Health Support Scheme. The scheme has helped in the fight against Covid-19 and will ultimately help us all defeat this terrible disease.”
Minton went on to say “that the health and resilience of our communities will be critical in our efforts to bounce back and bounce back better. The entire country is playing its part in the response, and this scheme is just another example”.