It is the 15th day since the war began in Ukraine. For Ukrainians and many people across the globe, we see the world before February 24 and after, and the world is divided into light and darkness.
Our society built a young country. Yes, Ukraine could not boast of strong medicine, a sufficient level of medical education, the availability of some types of care including palliative care, and total access to painkillers. But these developments have taken place. Perhaps these developments did not take place at the systemic level but with sufficient advocacy of palliative care, support from international experts, and financial support from international foundations. The government financed packages of medical guarantees for mobile and inpatient palliative care for adults and children.
Hospices and two mobile palliative services for children worked in Kyiv. There were two hospices for adults, a children’s hospice, a regional centre for palliative care for children, and mobile services working in the city of Kharkiv. Palliative care for the adult population began to be created in Ivano-Frankivsk for the first time in Ukraine and this process was shared in many other regions. We had loyal legislation on the prescription of narcotic analgesics to people with pain among other countries of the post-Soviet space. We began to introduce the educational components of palliative care in undergraduate and postgraduate education for medical staff and held three national congresses on palliative care.
I would like to share how the first day of the war began including February 23rd in the evening. There was interesting work with colleagues from the St. Jude children’s hospital in EPEC-Paediatrics – Eurasia Program, where 26 participants were from Ukraine. On February 24th without declaring war, bombs fell on us. All these 15 days Russian aggression destroyed us, our cities, hospitals, maternity homes, residential areas but during these 15 days, there was support from all kinds of people from all over the world. Support not only at the level of the political elite, but the support of ordinary people, the medical community, and the international palliative care community. Many countries now accept our refugees and provide the most feasible help to people. In these 15 days, we are forming ourselves as a civilized nation. Under bombs and shelling, we evacuate people with life-limiting diseases, the elderly, and kids. We formed baby food banks with special nutrition for orphaned kids with diseases.
16 ordinary municipal hospitals in Kyiv started to receive patients in need of palliative care, provided free telephone consultations, and took the elderly out of the hospice shelled by cluster rockets. Our heroic volunteers help not only the front and army, they help the most defenseless and weak people. Every minute we live in these terrible days, and every minute we feel the support, prayers, and help from colleagues from the International Children’s Palliative Care Network. Thanks to all of you dear colleagues! I don’t know how many more of our people will die. I know the peace to come. #StopWarinUkraine.
Author: Olena Riga, Professor of Paediatrics Departments of Kharkiv National Medical University, Ukraine, ICPCN member.