A children’s hospital in the Kyiv area

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By FTN Editorial Team

Currently, the hospital accommodates about 300 children of all ages. Halyna, the medical director of the clinic, takes us on a tour of the hospital and emotionally recounts the first months of the cruel war. In the corridors, we see full water tanks as the hospital prepares for future crisis situations. We are led to the maternity ward to see the smallest patients in the hospital. We ask if we may photograph and document, and all agree, smiling sadly at us. Sirens in Kyiv sound several times a day, prompting many of the young patients to be moved. We are shown a small bunker about two hundred meters from the clinic, equipped with an operating room and ventilators, as well as some toys to distract children from the impending danger.

Halyna: The main task of our hospital is to provide medical care for the children in our region, as well as the Kyiv region. Ukraine is currently under martial law, so we also provide medical assistance to internally displaced persons. I am responsible for the medical part of our hospital. The hospital has a stationary department, which includes departments of surgery, ophthalmology, urology, orthopedics, traumatology, as well as an ENT department. There is also a stationary children’s department. This is department of pediatrics number 1. In the department of pediatrics number 2, we provide medical care in the following specialties: gastroenterology, endocrinology, where children with particularly severe forms of diabetes are treated.

We also have a department for infectious diseases where we treat patients with infectious diseases. We continue to treat children with COVID infection as soon as this disease appears in Ukraine. For this, we have two intensive care units: This is the intensive care unit for premature babies, where we care for babies up to 28 days old. In this department, we treat up to 200 small patients annually. We also have a visitation team of neonatologists in this department, where our specialists travel to the delivery units of the region with a specially equipped car. We admit newborns with disabilities as well as premature babies. I would like to point out that with the outbreak of hostilities, there were significantly more
premature babies. Previously, premature babies accounted for about 50%, today they are about 70% of the total number of newborns. After the children’s stay in the intensive care unit, the children go to the premature baby department where the children are already with their mothers and are treated.

We also have an intensive care unit for older children, where children aged 1 month to 18 years are treated with various pathologies that require intensive treatment. We have the possibility to perform artificial lung ventilation in children of different ages. We have all the possibilities, we have specialistswho can perform this procedure at a very high professional level, as well as highly qualified doctors and medical personnel.

We also have all the necessary equipment that allows our specialists to provide the necessary support. Recently, we opened a hospice department where we offer palliative care for children. And since this year, we have opened a children’s psychiatry department where children from our region are also treated.

We also have a polyclinic where outpatient care is offered. We also conduct various studies: ultrasound examination of all organs and systems. There are all possibilities to carry out X-ray examinations. However, we have a very big problem – there is no CT scanner. We really need this device because we receive children with injuries, we treat children with severe neurological diseases, diseases of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Often there is a need to perform such examinations, but we do not have the corresponding equipment. Therefore, we have to use the device that is located in another clinic.

In the first days of the war, when Russian troops attacked us, we continued to work. If you look at the map, the northern part of the Kiev region was not occupied. However, we were in close proximity to the active hostilities line. In fact, active hostilities took place 10 to 12 kilometers away from us, but we continued to work. When the war started, there were 204 children in the hospital. The children who could be taken away were taken by their parents, and we continued to treat the remaining children. We did not interrupt our work for a single day and treated children, although Russian rockets flew over us. To ensure the safety of patients and medical personnel, we have an air-raid shelter. Children go down to the air-raid shelter during the alarm. The siren sounds, and the children go down to the air-raid shelter organized. Of course, fear has a very negative effect on the condition of young patients. Of course, it is very difficult for us to work. Ukraine has been at war for over a year. For more than a year, the specialists in our hospital have been working under stressful conditions. All departments of our hospital are working. Medical care is provided on an outpatient basis, both in the clinic and in the hospital.

Interviewer: How many children are currently being treated? And can you do your work fully given the fact that there is a war going on in Ukraine?

Halyna: An offensive war is taking place in Ukraine. Of course, it is now much harder to work, but we are doing everything to ensure full medical care. We perform surgical procedures as well as therapeutic treatments. You have seen for yourself that we now have two intensive care units operating normally. Our hospital has a capacity of 335 beds, plus 12 beds in the intensive care unit. And yesterday, 270 children were in our hospital. That means our hospital is 80% full of patients. Yes, of course, it has become more difficult to work now. However, we continue our work and provide medical care to small patients. Of course, rockets are not flying over us every second, but when there is an alarm, we go down to the air raid shelter.

Interviewer: What specific help do you need at the moment? What goods, medicines, what medical equipment?

Halyna: We urgently need a CT scanner. We also need an amplitude-integrated electroencephalograph for newborns, a system for cooling newborns (as they are called) for the intensive care unit. And we need an electronuromyograph. Additionally, we are now in a state where we do not always have enough medicines. There is also a great need for consumables and articles for child care. Cleaning supplies and equipment are also needed. Because cleanliness is very important in wards, operating rooms, and intensive care units, we need cleaning equipment, as well as consumables such as syringes, feeding tubes, hygiene tubes.

Interviewer: How many children are currently in the hospital?

Halyna: As of this morning, we had 260 children. In addition, mothers take care of their children up to a certain age. We have slightly fewer children on weekends because some of them are taken home, and from Monday, there are about 270-290 little patients.

Interviewer: What are the main problems children are facing now?

Halyna: We are living in difficult times. We are all in a constant state of stress. There are more teenagers with high blood pressure. We noticed this trend with the outbreak of hostilities. The number of children with anxiety who need psychological help has increased. The number of children with diabetes is not only not decreasing but is also growing. This happens as a result of stress. And all children with diabetes mellitus often have a critical condition, a hypertensive crisis, meaning a sharp rise in blood sugar levels, and as a result, this leads to complications. Such children should be monitored in the intensive care unit. We now have such a child in the intensive care unit, and we need to correct blood sugar levels and electrolytes. Infectious diseases also remain high. There are also cases of COVID-19. There was a moment when there were slightly fewer COVID-19 cases than usual. In February and early March, more children arrived. About 50 children with COVID-19 symptoms are admitted every month. Children under 1 year old suffer from respiratory diseases as well as other illnesses. As I noted earlier, there are many more premature babies. Constant stress negatively affects mothers, and children are born prematurely, requiring additional care as well as expensive medicines. A similar situation can be observed throughout the country.

Kyiv, March 3, 2023

The interview was recorded by Ron Weimann and first appeared on his Facbook “Lichtblicke und
Schattenseiten”. The interview with the medical leadership was anonymized for security reasons.
Translation by Christian Gruber