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Development of volunteer medical rescue system in Ukraine

One of Ukraine’s significant development problems is its inefficient medical emergency system. There is a shortage of trained personnel, equipment and effective management. There are practically no volunteer services, which complement the professional emergency medical services in the EU member states and which provide volunteer assistance in emergency situations and aid professional medical rescuer workers in less risky activities, such as securing mass events and providing ambulance transport services.

The medical rescue services in Ukraine take far too long to reach accident victims. All of these services’ deficiencies became very clear in the course of the Euromaidan clashes in Kyiv, when hundreds of people were killed or wounded. Some of the demonstrators spontaneously formed volunteer medical rescue groups, which, however, were neither adequately staffed with trained medical personnel nor adequately equipped and, as a result, could not always provide effective assistance. People wanted to offer help, but they did not know what to do.

Ukraine is experiencing unprecedented levels of positive interest in volunteering, including medical response volunteering. Ukrainians recognise the need to gain practical skills in first-response first aid. Private individuals, schools and various institutions have been approaching NGOs and expressing their interest in this type of training.

Local non-governmental organisations are making efforts to respond to this grass-roots movement. The Maltese Relief Service in Ukraine, which is active in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, has acquired 300 new volunteers. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of qualified personnel and of resources for training programmes and for the formation of a medical rescue volunteer service. The information provided by the local project partner indicates that the organisations now active in Ukraine are able to cover 5 per cent of the current demand for such activities.

Development of volunteer medical rescue system in Ukraine

The project was aimed at strengthening the Ukrainian medical rescue system through the launch of volunteer medical rescue teams. In cooperation with the Maltese Relief Service in Ukraine and the Order of Malta, the project team recruited, trained and equipped volunteers in Kyiv, Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk. It held training courses in qualified first aid and pre-medical first aid for pregnant women, children and people with disabilities. The project also provided training for future organisers and co-ordinators of volunteer work. The initial medical rescue patrol teams were furnished with equipment required to conduct medical rescue operations in emergency situations. Also, joint Polish-Ukrainian field exercises were held for medical rescuer workers.

The project complemented other development programmes currently under way in Ukraine, such as the project being carried out by the Maltese Relief Service in Ukraine and the Order of Malta in Germany, which involves the preparation of a mobile camp for 300 refugees to be used in an emergency situation. The preparation of the camp and of a group of medical rescuer workers are complementary projects. The project is also consistent with actions undertaken by Polish medical rescue organisations and institutions; the healthcare systems in Poland and Ukraine have been collaborating since the spring of 2014 with the objective of reforming and strengthening the Ukrainian medical rescue system. The experience of EU member states, including that of Poland, shows that volunteer medical rescue teams are a desirable addition to the professional medical rescue system.

Development of volunteer medical rescue system in Ukraine

The project included the development of a common Polish-Ukrainian standard syllabus for training in emergency medical rescue at the level of qualified first aid, which was subsequently followed in the training of 67 people. In addition, 13 people completed training in the provision of first aid to children, 18 in the provision of first aid to pregnant women, and 15 in the provision of first aid to people with disabilities. Another 45 people completed a course on the organisation of volunteer medical service, the organisation of rescue operations and team management.

The main outcome of the project was the creation of a total of 13 volunteer medical rescue groups in Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Kyiv. These groups were subsequently supplied with the required equipment and uniforms.

The Maltese Relief Service in Ukraine, the project’s Ukrainian partner, received equipment and training and materials enabling them to conduct first-aid demonstrations and training courses.

In order to consolidate the skills they acquired in the course of the respective training courses, 37 Ukrainian volunteer medical rescuer workers took part in field exercises under simulation conditions, and another 12 of these volunteers engaged in international exercises.