Local NHS rally to stand in solidarity with Ukraine

A group of NHS staff has responded to the situation in Ukraine with a monumental effort to rally colleagues across the North East to provide much-needed medical supplies to the war-torn country.

Karolis Rozanas (37), who is from Lithuania and a foundation year 2 doctor at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, co-founded Medical Aid Ukraine North East with Katarzyna Kostrzewa (35), a surgical trainee with Health Education England North East. Katarzyna, who was born in Poland, is helping with the national coordination effort. Karolis’s wife, Rugile Rozane (32), who is currently training to be a psychiatrist at Northumbria Healthcare’s North Tyneside General Hospital was also instrumental in setting up the group.

Karolis and Rugile, who are from a country that declared independence from Russia in 1990, now live in Whitely Bay. They set up the Medical Aid Ukraine North East Facebook page just a few days ago, asking hospital trusts across the region for any medical, surgical or first aid supplies and medicines that are soon to expire or would be disposed of.

They were quickly supported by Vladyslav Vovk (26), a Ukrainian-born foundation 2 doctor working at North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Nicola Elliott (32), who is a nurse practitioner at Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and whose grandfather was born in Ukraine, and Elliott Philips (25), who is currently a GP trainee working in Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s A&E department.

Each are involved in this cause for their own very personal reasons. Vladyslav was born in Ternopil, Western Ukraine, and his parents who are both doctors decided to leave when he was six. They lived in Argentina for three years and then emigrated to the UK. Vladyslav has family and friends living through the horrific situation in Ukraine. His cousin is a paediatrician in Kyiv and his grandmother still lives in Western Ukraine.

Founding member of Medical Aid Ukraine North East, Koralis Rozanas, who experienced living in poverty when he grew up and came to the UK when he was 19, said: “What is going on in Ukraine is a brutal attack on everything we hold dear in the modern western world with heart-breaking and devastating repercussions to innocent civilians. Field doctors from Ukraine, doing their best to care for people and save people’s lives, are contacting us to ask for help. They are desperate for supplies. The worst thing we can do is be apathetic, stand by and do nothing. When we set up the Facebook page a few days ago, I didn’t expect the reaction we have had.

“I am overwhelmed and so grateful for the response and thank everyone supporting this cause from the bottom of my heart. This clearly shows that our NHS across the North East has compassion and humility and for that, I will be eternally grateful. I thank my wife, Rugile, too who has been instrumental in this being a success and she is an incredible support.”

Medical Aid Ukraine North East is working closely with the British Ukrainian Aid Charity, the Ukrainian Medical Association and other national organisations and charities, including UNICEF and the British Red Cross.

Hospital trusts and other parts of the NHS across the North East have been quick to respond to the plea and are giving a huge amount of support, including managing a complex logistical exercise. They are also donating essential medical equipment including disinfectant, gauze, bandages, gloves, splints, neck braces, resuscitation masks, thermal foil blankets, single-use scalpels, saline and single-use surgical kits. Supplies are being collected by nine Medical Aid Ukraine hubs across the UK and will be transported to a central point and then onto Ukraine.

Being able to support the people of Ukraine is very important to Nicola Elliott. Her grandfather, who sadly died in 1998, was born there and wore his Ukrainian badge every single day. He was in a concentration camp from 1940 to 1947 and relocated to England immediately after his release. As a result, Nicola’s family are well aware of how a war can impact on families. Sadly, in those seven years, her grandfather lost touch with his family. With the support of the British Red Cross, Nicola has found some surviving relatives in Poland.

Samantha Allen, chief executive of the Integrated Care Board for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “Our hearts are filled with sadness and our thoughts are with everyone affected by the current situation in Ukraine, especially those in our workforce and in our local communities directly impacted.

“We are thinking too of the many healthcare teams in and around Ukraine who will be trying so hard to care for their people in the most awful of circumstances. The personal stories of the clinicians who have helped to coordinate this absolutely phenomenal effort are heart-wrenching. It is inspiring to see their drive and determination and I am proud they are my colleagues. It is fantastic to see our NHS teams across the North East and North Cumbria mobilising to do what they can, in whatever way, to give support.”

Anthony Robson, managing director for QE Facilities, said: “QE Facilities and Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust are working with the Ukrainian Medical Association via Ukraine Medical Aid North East to provide some medical supplies and are coordinating logistics for the North East and beyond to offer our support.

“We are storing goods to be palletised and forwarded on via the network and have started to pick up medical equipment and supplies from GPs and clinics. We will continue to offer our support, wishes, and thoughts to everyone affected, both at home and away.”

People should please check the Medical Aid Ukraine North East Facebook page to find out where they can drop off supplies and which supplies are currently being accepted. People can also donate via https://donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-crisis-appealwww.british-ukranianaid.org or https://www.unhcr.org/uk/.

Charity www.supportandgrownortheast.com is team of volunteers and another source of help. They offer people immediate crisis relief, mental health support and care in terms of clothing and food.

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