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Conference hears about plight and ‘courage’ of Ukrainian health workers

Some health workers in Ukraine are being held hostage while others are in desperate need of bulletproof vests and power packs to keep them and their patients safe as the Russian invasion continues, a source has learned. conference.

Delegates to Unison’s annual health conference were moved to tears during an emotional speech by Health Workers Union of Ukraine (HWUU) Vice President Iryna Shvets earlier in the day .

Ms Shvets, who has worked in the health field for more than 30 years and began her career as a nurse, spoke of the “catastrophic consequences” of the Russian attacks on the health system in Ukraine.

Over the past two months, Russian forces have “destroyed, shelled and shelled” health facilities and urgent care teams, she said.

A total of 47 health facilities have been damaged so far – 38 of which cannot be repaired – and 76 ambulances have been shot down, Ms Shvets said.

“These horrific attacks are killing and seriously injuring patients and healthcare workers,” she said.

“There is evidence that health workers were taken hostage, forcibly taken with their patients to unknown destinations and forced to work with Russian forces in an active combat zone and [in] pain of being shot.

The hospital bombings were not “random” attacks, added Ms Shvets, who claimed Russian forces were actually “targeting” health infrastructure.

“This is not a war but a genocide aimed at destroying Ukrainians,” she said.

Ms Shvets described the environments and conditions in which nurses and health care staff worked.

“Health workers provide care under the whistle of bullets and shells, in bomb shelters, often without light, water or heating”

Iryna Shvets

“In wartime conditions, hospitals operate 24/7,” she said. “Health workers provide care under the whistle of bullets and shells, in bomb shelters, often without light, water or heating.”

About a thousand health facilities were located near war zones, she said, and staff were “constantly” risking their lives and health.

“Health personnel are also suffering from physical and psycho-emotional stress in western regions due to a large number of displaced people in need of health care,” Ms. Shvets added.

The “courage and sacrifice of Ukrainian health workers is astounding”, but they have desperate needs, she noted.

Helmets and body armor were needed for rescuers, Ms. Shvets noted, while generators were needed to ensure uninterrupted power to health facilities.

Financial assistance would also be needed for post-war reconstruction of health infrastructure, she added.

There were plans in Ukraine regarding where hospitals can be built or rebuilt and what additional health services can be offered, including the development of temporary mobile hospitals.

During her speech, which took place via video link on day two of the healthcare services group Unison 2022 conference in Liverpool, Ms Shvets thanked the union for their support and for donating 10 ambulances to the Ukraine. “It will save many lives,” she said.

The HWUU supports more than 600,000 nurses, doctors and other health workers in over 90% of health facilities in Ukraine.

Other media coverage from the Unison Healthcare Group conference:

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