Inside our surgical field hospital in Eastern Ukraine

After severe shelling of a hospital in Eastern Ukraine compromised its ability to provide critical services, UK-Med set up a field surgical unit to continue its vital treatment near the frontline.

Because of the severity of the damage to the hospital, the repair was estimated to take some time. Ukrainian health authorities asked UK-Med to set up a field surgical unit in the hospital grounds to keep its services running while they rebuilt their facilities.

“As some tank shells have gone through several areas of the top two or three floors,” Consultant Surgeon Angus Watson explains. “You can see the holes in the walls, an area where the shell from the tank went through a metal cabinet over.

“When the hospital was under attack, the staff brought patients down to this area and had two children who were born down here.”

Staff and patients took safety in the hospital’s basement while it was under fire from Russian forces. Photo credit: Jonathan Moore

Led by David Anderson, the hospital was set up and running within twelve days – with help from our brilliant local Ukrainian team members (who you can see in the video below).

The new field hospital has been set up next to the original hospital building and has its own ward area, nurse’s hub, and operating theatre.

There has been high demand in Ukraine for surgical support to meet the acute demand for specialist surgery for people injured on the frontlines, particularly war wounds and limb and facial reconstruction.

Angus Watson and NHS Consultant Anaesthetist Dr Hamish Hay are specialised in treating war wounded and limb reconstruction. They’re part of the NHS team working alongside Ukrainian medics in hospitals across eastern Ukraine and performed the first operations at the unit.

Watch David, Angus and the team setting up the field hospital.

As Angus, Hamish and the rest of the UK-Med clinical team began to engage more meaningfully with the local hospital teams, it was discovered that they have a critical shortage of supplies. Some basic consumables, such as bed pans, urine bottles, surgical drapes and sutures have not been available in the area.

Essential pharmaceuticals, surgical operating consumables and essential equipment for the ward (such as personal protective equipment, catheters, dressings) are now being transported over to the hospital. The imminent arrival of these items is being very warmly welcomed.

The relationships between national and NHS staff have been fantastic. Angus and Hamish add that everybody has been exceptionally kind and welcoming; whether it is at the hospital, in their accommodation, or in the local markets.

“It’s been an enormous privilege to be working with UK-Med in Ukraine,” Angus says. “I’m confident that we’ve made a long-lasting difference to the lives of the patients and people.

Ukrainian and NHS staff have been working collaboratively at the hospital.
Ukrainian and NHS staff have been working collaboratively at the hospital. Photo credit: Jonathan Moore

How you can help

The surgical support in Ukraine is just one way in which our teams have been providing care and support for people impacted by the conflict.

In March 2022, our Ukraine response began with health clinics set up for vulnerable people who were forced to flee their homes in the freezing winter temperatures, and it has continued since to include training for thousands of people as well as surgical support across the country.

The levels of care, experience and specialisms from the team have been immense. Over the past five months, we’ve seen first-hand how fast things can change in a crisis. That’s why the ability to respond rapidly and provide the levels of care, experience and specialisms that our team has is so critical.

We were able to hit the ground running in Ukraine because of your support. If you are able to, donate today to make sure we can provide healthcare for those affected by outbreaks, conflict and disasters in Ukraine and across the world.

Visit: uk-med.org/donate >

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Our many thanks to the UK government who has provided funding of £300,000 to help UK-Med train Ukrainian doctors, nurses and paramedics on how to deal with mass casualties and set up mobile health clinics to support the most vulnerable civilians remaining in Ukraine, including the elderly and young children.

In addition to this funding and the field hospital equipment worth over £200,000, the government has also donated £300,000 worth of medicines and pharmaceutical supplies to UK-Med which could support a hospital for up to six weeks.

Feature image: The inside of the operating theatre which is being used during the hospital rebuild. Photo credit: Jonathan Moore

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