Q&A: Physicians weigh in as assaults on well being care proceed in Ukraine

March 25, 2022

5 min learn

WHO estimates there have been upwards of two assaults per day on well being care infrastructure in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of the nation.

As of March 25, there have been 72 incidents of assaults on well being care, leading to 71 deaths and 37 accidents.

Ukrainian flag on stethoscope. Source: Adobe Stock.
WHO estimates there have been upwards of two assaults per day on well being care infrastructure in Ukraine. Supply: Adobe Inventory.

The struggle has prompted 3.6 million folks to flee Ukraine, searching for refuge in close by nations like Poland and Moldova. Practically 7 million Ukrainians are internally displaced from the struggle. Amongst them, one in three suffers from a power situation, in response to the Worldwide Group for Migration. About 1,000 well being care services in Ukraine are close to battle strains or in “modified areas of management,” WHO stated.

In an announcement, WHO referred to as for an “fast cessation of all assaults on well being care.” The group described the violence as “an act of unconscionable cruelty.”

“Assaults on well being care are a violation of worldwide humanitarian legislation however a disturbingly widespread tactic of struggle. They destroy essential infrastructure, however worse, they destroy hope,” Jarno Habicht, MD, PhD, a WHO consultant in Ukraine, stated. “They deprive already susceptible folks of care that’s usually the distinction between life and demise. Well being care is just not — and may by no means be — a goal.”

Healio mentioned the challenges going through well being care in Ukraine with a number of Healio Main Care Peer Perspective Board members, together with David B. Duong, MD, MPH, the director of the Harvard Medical College Program in International Main Care and Social Change, Manu Jain, MD, a professor of medication (pulmonary and important care) and pediatrics at Northwestern College Feinberg College of Medication, Alexander Kowalski, DO, the medical director of Rowan Household Medication in Stratford, New Jersey, Rita Okay. Kuwahara, MD, MIH, a main care inner drugs doctor and well being coverage fellow at Georgetown College, and Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, FAAP, FACP, FAHA, FAMWA, FTOS, an weight problems drugs doctor and director of fairness for the endocrine division at Massachusetts Common Hospital.

Healio: What are your ideas on the struggle in Ukraine?

David Duong

David B. Duong

Duong: The human life loss and struggling ensued by this struggle is devastating on each the person and international stage. It’s exhausting to consider {that a} land struggle with fashionable weapons of struggle are going down this present day — and but, that’s the actuality. My hearts and prayers go to the folks of Ukraine.

Manu Jain

Manu Jain

Jain: I feel the struggle in Ukraine is an absolute tragedy. It’s exhausting to wrap your head round how this will really be taking place, {that a} sovereign nation might be so unjustly attacked. There was no provocation, and you are feeling for all of the harmless folks whose lives have been turned the other way up, to not converse of all of the folks, together with youngsters, who’ve died or been severely injured.

Alex Kowalski

Alexander Kowalski

Kowalski: My first ideas are at all times for the impression on the nonmilitary personnel and the way their lives and well being care wants can be disrupted, in addition to future health-related points related to the expertise of trauma.

Rita Kuwahara

Rita Okay. Kuwahara

Kuwahara: Russia’s navy assaults on Ukrainian civilians have created a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine. The killing of civilians and assaults on well being care services and well being care professionals represent struggle crimes and should finish now. The rising variety of refugees and internally displaced individuals in Ukraine are at excessive threat of experiencing poor well being outcomes from lack of medicines and entry to care, along with important psychological trauma, and the continued struggle will worsen well being inequities for many years to come back. Destruction of Ukraine’s well being care infrastructure implies that civilians can now not search important well being care companies. We should name for a right away ceasefire to guard civilian lives, and it’s essential for physicians and medical organizations to talk out towards the atrocities occurring in Ukraine.

For Ukrainian civilians who’ve been displaced, each effort have to be made to instantly provide people with essential medicines comparable to insulin, forestall infectious illness outbreaks — together with rises in COVID-19 — present satisfactory diet to stop dietary deficiencies and malnutrition, present psychological well being companies, and, for Ukrainians searching for refuge in different nations, language interpreters have to be made out there to stop medical errors because of language limitations.

Fatima Cody Stanford

Fatima Cody Stanford

Stanford: I by no means see struggle as a great factor, and I consider this struggle shouldn’t be. Conflict creates division, ache and angst. It brings out the more serious in folks. We now have even seen racial/ethnic minorities face racism throughout this struggle, if there was not sufficient to fret about.

Healio: How will the struggle impression main care in Jap Europe?

Duong: There have been not less than 71 verifiable assaults on well being care services in Ukraine for the reason that begin of the struggle, with six assaults alone on March 20, in response to WHO. Just like all wars and conflicts, the well being care system is left devastated, from hospitals to community-based clinics. From a main well being care perspective, I fear concerning the lack of entry to well being look after the Ukrainian folks throughout this time, and the additional morbidity and mortality that can end in lack of medicines for power ailments and delays/lapses in remedy. For refugees, an analogous image will play out by way of restricted entry to their ongoing remedies and drugs as they try to determine care of their new localities. For each populations, the trauma and psychological well being fall out can be super. Lastly, I take into consideration the frontline well being care staff, working tirelessly to avoid wasting lives, and the risks that they discover themselves in, and pray that this horror can be over quickly, and the worldwide rebuilding of Ukraine can begin.

Healio: What are the pulmonary well being dangers that will outcome from dwelling in a warzone?

Jain: There are a selection of pulmonary ailments that may manifest in struggle situations. There are trauma-related issues comparable to pneumothorax, lung contusions and acute respiratory misery syndrome. There are additionally accidents associated to inhalation of noxious gases, which might trigger each massive and small airway injury. The very best recognized of those gases could also be chlorine and mustard gasoline, which have each been used as chemical weapons. However different causative gases embody phosgene, sulfides and fluorides. As well as, there might be extreme burn accidents, which might be life-threatening, and these embody each thermal damage of the higher airway and smoke inhalation, which tends to trigger damage to the decrease airways. Additionally, relying on the native situations, pulmonary infections could be a important reason for morbidity and mortality. These issues can happen in in any other case wholesome folks, however in the event you occur to have bronchial asthma, publicity to mud or allergens might precipitate exacerbations. Lastly, I’ll say that in warzone, one may have restricted sources with which to maintain sufferers, which might take an in any other case treatable sickness and make it deadly.

Healio: Are household drugs physicians educated to arrange for crises like this?

Kowalski: Particular coaching on disaster administration is just not normally part of medical college or residency curriculum. Nonetheless, the broad data base wanted for household drugs and treating sufferers of all ages permits household drugs physicians to help in a singular means throughout crises.

Healio: How do you assume the dearth of entry to satisfactory meals and water is impacting people who find themselves trapped within the nation proper now?

Stanford: The shortage of entry to meals and water will result in poor well being and dietary outcomes, however the stress and trauma will doubtless be much more damaging. The stress and trauma can ravage generations to come back via epigenetics.


Place statements. https://www.amwa-doc.org/our-work/advocacy/position-statements/. Revealed March 2022. Accessed March 25, 2022.

Cease assaults on well being care in Ukraine. https://www.who.int/news/item/13-03-2022-stop-attacks-on-health-care-in-ukraine. Revealed March 13, 2022. Accessed March 22, 2022.

Surveillance system for assaults on well being care. https://extranet.who.int/ssa/LeftMenu/Index.aspx?utm_source=Stopping%20attacks%20on%20health%20care%20QandA&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=Link_who. Accessed March 22, 2022.

Ukraine emergency. https://www.unrefugees.org/emergencies/ukraine/. Accessed March 23, 2022.


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