Keeping hospitals open and supplied

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Keeping hospitals open and supplied

Юрий Орлов/ МККК

The Toretsk Central Hospital is on the frontline of fighting in Ukraine. Just three kilometers from non-government controlled Horlivka, it has had to make the transition from sleepy local city hospital to emergency treatment center for hundreds of soldiers and civilians injured in fighting.

“It is very loud here. There is shooting every night. Physically and psychologically people are exhausted because every day we wait and think about whether we will stay alive or not,” says Iryna Rupskaya, first deputy of the hospital.

With financial strain on hospitals near the contact line increasing daily, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reduces that pressure by providing medical supplies and equipment to hospitals like the Toretsk Central Hospital.

“We have a strong team,” says Rupskaya. “But we exist because of humanitarian aid.”

The ICRC doesn’t perform medical services, but provides support so that local medical facilities and practitioners can keep providing care to their communities. Since the armed conflict began, the hospital system in Ukraine has been placed under tremendous strain. Fighting has increased the need for treatment as the injured are brought in, but the contact line and checkpoints have also completely changed the landscape.

At the Toretsk Central Hospital, that means in addition to treating injuries from hostilities in their community, they treat neighboring communities cut off from the medical centers that once served them. Those factors have increased what is demanded of hospitals, heightening a shortage of resources.

In response, the ICRC has provided the Toretsk Central Hospital with supplies, including medicine and surgical instruments. The ICRC also provided materials to keep the hospital building itself in working order, such as nails and replacement glass for windows, which are blown out by the reverberations from shelling.

The Toretsk Central Hospital is just one of many hospitals the ICRC provides with supplies so that they can keep functioning, on both sides of the contact line. 74 medical facilities in total receive support from the ICRC.

The ICRC also works with hospitals to increase their ability to treat trauma cases. In hospitals, involved in the treatment of weapon-wounded patients, the ICRC regularly offers Emergency Room Trauma courses and War Surgery seminars. The ICRC has also been working with hospitals to introduce the latest in international systems for managing and prioritizing the treatment of trauma patients.

Yurii Orlov/ ICRC

Yurii Orlov/ ICRC


A critical issue in treating trauma as well as other patients is being able to provide blood transfusions. Available and safe blood supplies save lives and allow doctors to perform important operations. The ICRC not only supplies consumables for blood collection in Donetsk and Luhansk, but provides testing systems for screening the donated blood for diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B and C and Syphilis.

Another major challenge in areas affected by fighting is providing consistent treatment of chronic conditions. Particularly in non-government controlled areas, the ICRC aids in providing haemodialysis and insulin treatment. For patients left in war-torn areas, kidney problems mean that without haemodialysis they would die within one to two weeks. To prevent that potential catastrophe, the ICRC has already provided materials for more than 30,000 hemodialysis sessions. Similarly daunting is the provision of insulin to diabetic patients. The ICRC provides insulin to cover the needs of thousands of patients every month.

Fighting has caused many to flee, and those that do remain in areas near the contact line are often the most vulnerable, such as the elderly. These groups continue to need medical services at a time when medical resources at the frontline have become more scarce. The ICRC works to provide medical professionals with the equipment and supplies they need to keep doing their jobs.

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