Médecins Sans Frontières, otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, has been on the ground in Ukraine since 1999, according to their director, Dr. Carrie Teicher, who spoke to me on SiriusXM’s "Doctor Radio."
Teicher, a public health specialist, told me that their previous work had focused on chronic infectious diseases and that they are using connections they have made with the Ukraine’s Ministry of Health to provide as much support as possible for the current humanitarian crisis.
"When we think about humanitarian needs and humanitarian medical needs in a conflict we look at what resources are there and I think one of the things that we have been very clear at seeing that we need is some increased support or rather us providing support to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and medical authorities on mass casualty training. It’s very different when you are running -- think about your urgent care here in the United States if suddenly it needed to be transformed -- your Emergency Room, your ED, to deal with mass casualties of intentional injuries of conflict. And so, that in and of itself is an entire portfolio of work that has to be done," she said.
Supplying hospitals with needed supplies for trauma care is a priority. That’s especially difficult at a time when supply lines are in jeopardy, and there are a rising number of war wounded with difficult-to-treat shrapnel wounds. Triaging the sickest patients to be treated first, stopping bleeding, and repairing damaged organs are all a priority.
"It is a race against time," Teicher said, and it is made more difficult because many of the Doctors Without Borders teams and others providing care are unable to move around easily.
Medical care (provided mainly by Ukrainian doctors and nurses) includes basic first aid, rehydration, food, and psychological first aide, helping people regain a sense of partial control by giving them the space to talk and to ask for things they may need.
Dr. Dan Schnorr, Emergency Room physician, global health expert and medial team leader in Ukraine for Doctors Without Borders, spoke with me for "Fox & Friends" about his efforts to help transform a 750 bed pediatric hospital at the heart of Kyiv, into a trauma hospital ready to take mass casualties.
"This is a hospital that, during peace time, is used to functioning as a referral center for pediatric patients. It's the largest pediatric hospital in the country," he said. They've been able to evacuate a large majority of their inpatients, and they're trying to repurpose their staff to be able to treat mass casualty traumatic type events.
Their staff has been diminished from about 2,000 down to about 200. They have many specialty trained surgeons and anesthesiologists with strong medical backgrounds -- however, they are "not accustomed to treating trauma."
Doctors Without Borders brought in trauma specialists including a vascular surgeon to teach the staff and the hospital began to see trauma cases.
Of course, an onsite course is no replacement for years of combat surgery and Schnorr said he didn’t know how effective the hospital would be as the numbers increased and the supplies diminished.
I told him I was concerned about wounds and infections. He said, "Right now, the hospital has been able to maintain sterile conditions. But I mean, you're absolutely right that that's the primary concern for war wounded individuals. So we are trying to supply materials that can be helpful in preventing wound infections such as wound vacs. And the hospital right now has the equipment it needs, but clearly, you know, those could rapidly become overwhelmed."
The inhumanity of the war extends beyond just growing civilian casualties and multiple hospitals and schools destroyed to the blocking of necessary supplies to save lives that hang in the balance.
Doctors Without Borders and other humanitarian groups are doing the best they can to prepare and train those who would limit the damage.