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Rescue structures of the Maltese Relief Service launched in Ukraine

On 5-6 September, the Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk hosted the first international manoeuvres of paramedics. The event brought together 12 teams, of which 9 came from Ukraine, 2 from Poland, and 1 from Germany. Altogether, 47 volunteers took part in the competition.

“We began preparing for the manoeuvres several weeks in advance. We developed task scenarios, designated locations for simulated accidents, and secured permits from the municipal authorities. The final week before the manoeuvres was especially busy. Technical issues had to be solved, and the ‘casualties’ found. Our work involved scores of volunteers, each of whom was in charge of their section of the manoeuvres. The hardest bit was to link up 150 people into one seamless process to make things run smoothly. But we did it, and I’m very happy about the result,” said Lesya Gunchak, the project’s coordinator for Ukraine.

The manoeuvres were officially inaugurated in the cathedral square of Ivano-Frankivsk. The ceremony was attended by Aleksandra Firlik, Polish Consul in Lviv, an official from Ukraine’s Ministry of Emergencies, the head of the medical service in Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, the head of the Maltese organization in Ukraine, and the head of Caritas Ivano-Frankivsk. Ilona and Marcin Świerad represented the Order of Malta in Poland, while board president Damian Zadeberny and administrative plenipotentiary Zofia Zadeberny were delegated by the Maltese Medical Service Foundation.

“First-aid manoeuvres are the ultimate test for new rescue teams and their trainers. From now on, the Maltese in Ukraine have the necessary knowledge and professional equipment to extend and, even more importantly, to teach first aid,” said Marcin Świerad.

The participants in the manoeuvres were asked to complete four tasks with mock casualties. Rescuers helped a motorcyclist (pelvis injury) and an inline skater (open fracture) involved in an accident, a worker who fell down from a high scaffolding (unconscious, impaled on a rod), a half-drowned man pulled out of a lake, and a man with a heart attack. In the last scenario, the volunteers were asked to provide psychological support to the victim’s ‘wife’, whose panic attacks were masterly simulated by a Ukrainian volunteer. What the judges looked at was not only whether medical procedures were correctly applied, but also how effectively the teams worked and whether the rescuers made sure they themselves and the casualties were safe.

“It’s the first minutes after a disaster that count the most. If we help a person the right way, we improve their chances of staying alive and well,” Lubomyr Solomyany, a Ukrainian volunteer and participant of the manoeuvres, later explained. He went on to say that: “Taking part in these exercises and manoeuvres was a new experience and new skills for me. What I liked most was the chance to work with state-of-the-art equipment from Poland.”

The winning team was a patrol from Lviv that scored 118 points. The teams from Germany, Lviv, and Kyiv won 116 points each, which shows that the manoeuvres were at a high level. The judges had to use computer data about the effectiveness of resuscitation to decide which teams should be ranked second and third, and which one would miss the podium. It was the team from Kety that had bad luck this time – having scored 115 points, it ultimately came fifth.

“I’m sure the work we’ve done won’t be wasted. A case in point is the manoeuvres, which have shown that the rescuers we’ve trained to help people in need are really top-class. I have no doubt whatsoever that the things they learnt and the equipment they’ve been provided with will be put to good use in emergencies, and that their presence during World Youth Day will be a valuable reinforcement for us,” said Mariusz Zawada, a paramedic with the Maltese Medical Service.

The manoeuvres were part of a project called “Developing the volunteer medical rescue system in Ukraine,” run by the Maltese Medical Service Foundation, and the Maltese Relief Service in Ivano-Frankivsk. The project was co-funded by the Polish aid programme operated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland. It consisted of a series of training sessions for volunteers from Kyiv, Lviv, and Ivano-Frankivsk.

Running from May, the classes were given by Polish specialists supported by trainers from the Maltese Relief Service in Ukraine. Over a 30 day-period, 69 volunteers took part in courses on first aid, and first aid for disabled people, pregnant women, and infants. In addition, each city hosted a four-day-long leadership workshop. Thanks to the funding from the Polish MFA, the Maltese Medical Service Foundation delivered close to 900 kg of rescue and training equipment to Ukraine. It included rescue backpacks, spinal boards, radiophones, full uniform sets, and full complements of training equipment for three cities, comprising modern manikins, training defibrillators and many other types of devices.

“I want to say a big thank you to the Polish foreign ministry, the Order of Malta in Poland, and the Maltese Relief Service for excellent training and fantastic equipment, but also for standing by our side in these times which are so difficult for Ukraine, for appreciating our situation, and for friendship,” Roman Yaruchyk, head of the Maltese Relief Service in Ivano-Frankivsk, said at the conclusion of the manoeuvres.

Project "Development of volunteer medical rescue system in Ukraine" (no 55/2015) implementet by Order of Malta Poland. Grant of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - PLN 464,102.

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