Both trained and practised operational staff with solid experience of emergency preparedness and crisis management are recruited from the support team, hired and backed up by MSB during the operation. Olof Ekman, who is normally a strategic adviser at MSB and a former career officer, is currently part of and working in MSB’s FSOL support team. At the moment he serves as an extra resource with the Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket) and the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).
”As operational staff I primarily provide method support for collaboration and management, but also general support in whatever is needed at the moment to do with covid-19. These needs, and my daily tasks, vary enormously. I help out with everything from concepts and modelling to situation analyses and acting as a sounding board for decision makers and administrators,” says Olof Ekman, a member of MSB’s operational staff.
Cindy Sturesson, an external relations strategist at the Medical Products Agency, testifies to the importance of Olof’s support. Her background is also in the Swedish Armed Forces and MSB, but she started working at the Medical Products Agency when it was formed in the autumn of 2019. Her job there is principally to ensure that medical products and vaccines are safe and effective. There has been a lot of additional work during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly since the Medical Products Agency was appointed as one of the agencies responsible for civil defence in March of this year. The need for improved communication and information between different units has been considerable in building up the preparedness function. Olof’s expertise in emergency preparedness has therefore been of particular significance.
”Getting this support has been incredibly valuable, as Olof and the other operational staff are reliable and highly competent in the area of preparedness. This type of support gives us a great sense of security in our work at this time. Communication with the operations project manager at MSB has also been positive – the people I have been in touch with have always had an uncomplicated approach to things and have been able to find a good solution specifically for us,” says Cindy Sturesson, an external relations strategist at the Medical Products Agency.
One of the operational managers at the National Board of Health and Welfare, Pontus Rotter, has also had support from Olof and can attest to how much his help means to their coronavirus operations. Their workload has been significantly heavier since March, and demand for personnel resources has been high. MSB’s staff have therefore been dispatched as emergency preparedness resources providing support, for example, to coordinators in the form of reviews of certain issues from MSB’s perspective.
”Getting help and support from MSB has been extra significant in coordinating national reinforcement resources. As an example, MSB has helped us with tents for coronavirus testing outside hospitals all around the country. The work that Olof has helped with has been hugely valuable – the analysis support we are getting is now more regular. This has included the situation analyses that we have carried out during our coronavirus operations – such as strategies for and analyses of what needs to be done in different phases depending on how things develop, and how we need to prepare for that,” says Pontus Rotter, an operational manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare.
Loans of operational staff from MSB are usually for shorter periods of time. During specific events, such as during the coronavirus emergency, this need for staff resources increases. So far, the National Board of Health and Welfare has received support from MSB for three months. Pontus sees this as a clear advantage, as he feels continuity in term of the staff members on loan is necessary, and the needs can vary enormously depending on the situation. Just like Pontus, Olof also sees a need for longer-term collaboration.
”I view interpersonal familiarity as crucial. This becomes particularly important when we quickly have to deal with something that we haven’t prepared for, like covid-19. It also makes things a lot easier to know how ideas typically get expressed and how the group dynamics work in an organisation. The process of getting into that has worked really well at both the Medical Products Agency and the National Board of Health and Welfare – it’s been open-minded, attentive, considerate and solution-focused, despite the difficult circumstances,” Olof concludes.