Western Ukraine has so far been largely spared from the warlike actions. Nevertheless, the consequences of the war are also being felt here. Many internally displaced people have sought refuge - and need help. A small hospital built by volunteers has become a crucial place of healing and hope for many.
Ivano-Frankivsk is a Ukrainian university town in the Carpathian foothills, in the west of the country. A good 200,000 people lived here. Then, at the end of February 2022, the war began. The fact that millions of women, children and also men started moving westward was also felt in Ivano-Frankivsk. Many of the arrivals wanted to seek safety in neighboring countries. However, many of those who had not left their immediate homeland voluntarily, but had no other choice because of the violence and destruction, stayed in Ivano-Frankivsk. Some of them came from the hardest-fought areas in the south and east of Ukraine - and in more than 1,000 cases from hospitals in the area of Luhansk and Donetsk, which had to be evacuated.
In Ivano-Frankivsk and surrounding villages, many found a roof over their heads and something to eat. However, it was and still is much more difficult to find paid work in order to keep one's head above water by one's own efforts. The unemployment rate has therefore, unsurprisingly, risen over the past year. What's more, around 30% of internally displaced persons have no access to medical care because the health system is overburdened. This is very worrying because it is precisely those arriving from the south and east of the country who have not only physical injuries, but also psychological ones.
Because among the internally displaced persons living in Ivano-Frankivsk, highly qualified specialists in health care shared the lot of unemployment with other people, some of them decided to use their skills in a meaningful way. They founded the NPO "Directed Action" ("Spryamovana Diya"), built the "First Surgical Volunteer Hospital" and began to provide assistance with great commitment - and thanks to support from abroad. To this day, they receive practically no government support - the hospital is simply too small for that.
The activities have three main focuses. The surgical department has 16 beds. Here, the specialists mainly treat people with injuries to the musculoskeletal system and limbs. Since most of these injuries are directly related to acts of war, treatment is not limited to surgical interventions, but is more holistic in nature. Thus, a psychological specialist is always on duty, as well.
In a polyclinic, the focus is on therapeutic and psychological assistance for internally displaced persons; in addition, however, other specialists from very different medical fields are also on duty. The polyclinic is visited by an average of around 350 people per month.
Finally, a mobile intervention team consisting of professionals from different medical fields visits internally displaced people who are housed in specially provided mass shelters. Here, too, the work is holistic - in addition to help with physical problems, great importance is attached to psychological support. With their own ambulance, people in need of help can be taken to a hospital if necessary - for an inpatient stay or for additional examinations (CT, MRI, ultrasound, etc.). During 12 to 15 visits per month, up to 150 people receive medical care.
Today, about 70% of the professionals working in this hospital are themselves internally displaced people. They know the realities of those to whom they want to give help and a future.
The United Methodist Church (UMC) in the Czech Republic is in contact with this hospital and supports its many activities, from which well over 5,000 people benefited last year. Thanks to donations from individuals, congregations and a foundation, the UMC in Germany and in Switzerland has also recently supported this aid for Ukrainian people in need through the UMC in the Czech Republic - to make healing possible and to sow hope.
Source: First Voluntary Surgical Hospital, Ivano-Frankivsk / UMC Czechia / Urs Schweizer