The European Investment Bank (EIB) has provided a long-term loan of €55m to the South Savo Social and Health Care Joint Authority (ESSOTE) to renovate and extend the Central Hospital campus in the centre of Mikkeli in Finland.

The loan will be used to carry out major operational changes, which will help reduce the size of the hospital premises by about 20% that will support the consolidation of healthcare and social services.

The upgrade will also provide a single site to respond effectively care to the needs of a declining but ageing population in the region.

It will also offer a better configured infrastructure to reduce the service cost through shorter hospitalisation periods, reduced waiting times and improved use of scarce resources.

In addition, the modernisation and replacement of outdated buildings will improve hygiene and safety conditions.

The loan will also be used for the digitalisation of healthcare services, as modern technologies for telemedicine and virtual consultations will be used within this programme.

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It is reported that the reforms will be implemented in five stages under a programme called ‘ESPER’, the transformation of Mikkeli Central Hospital into a modern 24/7 hospital and well-being centre, a €110m project of which the EIB loan will cover up to half.

EIB vice-president Jan Vapaavuori said: "The European Investment Bank, the EU bank, is committed to supporting long-term investment that will increase the supply of healthcare services and improve access to healthcare.

"Modernising central hospitals is essential in order to secure a high level of healthcare provision and to keep costs under control. We are very pleased to be supporting the ESPER programme, as it will benefit patients from across the region.

"This programme will help to move Finland’s social and healthcare reform forward and thus provide good practice and serve as a model to others."

Implementation of the ESPER programme started last year and it is scheduled to be completed by 2020.

The programme includes the construction of new buildings and renovation of existing buildings.

ESSOTE director Vesa Vestala added: "In accordance with the national social and healthcare reform programme, our investment will improve customer and patient services and provide a comfortable and modern working environment for the staff.

"We will also be able to cut the cost of healthcare and enhance the status of the Mikkeli Central Hospital as a 24/7 emergency hospital."

The upgrade will see the initial phase of the hospital’s outpatient facilities completed by the beginning of next year.

As part of the upgrade, the Mikkeli city health centre (Pankalampi) will move into the outpatient area of the hospital campus and a significant part of the social services will also gradually move to the hospital campus.