From Germany to Ukraine: A hospice bridge of solidarity.

Categories: Care, Leadership, and People & Places.

The next in the EAPC series on the impact of the war in Ukraine is a post from Andreas Stähli, Head of the Academy at Johannes Hospice in Münster, Germany, about a bond of trust between two hospices. Posted on April 13, 2022 by pallcare  – reprinted with permission.

As I write this, we are in the midst of planning the next relief transport to the hospice in Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine. We are some of the staff of the Johannes Hospice in Münster, Germany.

In March 2022, we received a list of urgently needed goods from Iryna Slugotska, the director of the Regional Clinical Palliative Care Centre there. These included items for the care of the seriously ill and dying people, including wound gauze, compresses and medical equipment such as infusion pumps.

We had sent items before the war started, but now their need is more urgent and has changed to include even basic medical equipment. In some ways, the formalities have become easier since the war began (such as passing border control), but still the cost of transport is very high.

Two drivers from Ukraine come to pick up the goods, and the transport is financed by donations we have received. We are a good team at Münster, working hand in hand, and we know Iryna Slugotska well. In addition to the aid transport, we are preparing a large flat here in Münster not far from our hospice and the academy to provide shelter.

Iryna and I met in 2015 during an European Palliative Care Academy international leadership course. In 2017, she invited me to visit the hospice in Ivano-Frankivsk. I gave lectures and got to know the hospice and its people.

Many joint projects have emerged since then, such as short internships for colleagues from the hospice in Ivano-Frankivsk at the inpatient Johannes Hospice, an interdisciplinary course at the State Medical University in Ivano-Frankivsk and the publication of the first textbook on palliative care for nurses in Ukrainian.

Within this international co-operation we learn from each other, professionally and personally. We hear from one another about the different care systems, the possibilities and the barriers for the development of palliative work, about education and values etc. But perhaps the most important is that we build trust in each other.

Without this trust, this co-operation between people of different socio-cultural and historical backgrounds cannot succeed. Perhaps I may say that such cooperation is a culturally sensitive process. We do not know in advance how something will be, we keep an open mind and try to avoid stereotypes. We see the individual and his or her family, and we try to have a language of reciprocal understanding.

The result is an inspiring and vivid bridge between our two hospices.

And now that we are living in the midst of this so difficult time, this bridge of trust helps us and also others. The two major professional societies in Germany (German Association for Palliative Medicine and the German Hospice and Palliative Association) have asked how they can help, a hospice in Berlin has asked for information, and a colleague in the north-east of Germany has sought support on providing palliative care for people from Ukraine.

I also look to a neighbouring country of Ukraine, Moldova. I was there in August last year to visit three inpatient hospices. “The bombs are audible”, Vasile, the medical director of one of the hospices there, wrote to me last month to say. This great hospitality for the refugees in this small country – it is so touching.

How do I look to the future? With the heart of solidarity; and I know that besides external answers, it also needs our very own, inner answers. That means for me again and again: “Don’t be afraid”.

If you would like to help the hospice in Ivano-Frankivsk, please contact Andreas here.

Banner of partnership between two hospices in Ivano-Frankivsk and Münster.

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