Since the war in Ukraine started in late February 2022, millions of people have fled the country, including CKD patients in need of dialysis treatment. In Poland, Diaverum clinics have so far welcomed 114 patients, of which 42 currently continue to be treated by us*.
Ukrainian cities and towns have been devastated, leading to an amounting loss of life and destruction of essential infrastructure, including healthcare. This has created significant challenges for CKD patients in the country to carry on with their treatment.
There are approximately 10,000 adults and 40 children requiring dialysis treatment, and around 1,800 kidney transplant recipients in Ukraine (source). While some dialysis units have remained in operation, major shortages of vital medication have meant that many have had to leave their home country and continue secure their essential, life-sustaining treatment elsewhere. The European Union has responded to this; Ukrainian nationals are having their full health costs met as refugees in European Union countries through the European Union protection, while organisations such as the European Renal Association (ERA) are facilitating access to treatment. Many surrounding countries have been the ones to welcome dialysis patients. This has included quite a few countries where we operate, including Lithuania, Romania, Hungary, Sweden and in particular Poland, where Diaverum clinics have welcomed 114* patients since the start of the war, of which 42* currently remain there.
Ryszard Zajac, Country Manager for Diaverum Poland, explains that for his team, work started as early as 24 February. “After crossing the border, those refugees in need of dialysis treatment were initially referred to public hospitals and later on, to Diaverum clinics across the country. This unexpected inflow of patients, and in such extreme circumstances, meant that the clinical and nursing teams needed to respond swiftly”. Nonetheless, Ryszard adds: “our initiative to help Ukrainian war refugee patients was instinctual, and stemmed from the deep meaning our True care culture holds for us. We were duty-bound to help.”
The process of welcoming these patients came with a number of challenges. Many could only speak Ukrainian and to a lesser extent, Russian. This meant bringing in external interpreters and providing staff with mini dictionaries of Ukrainian medical phrases to facilitate basic conversations. Additionally, clinic paperwork was transcribed into Ukrainian.
Fernando Macário, Diaverum's Chief Medical Officer, noted that caring for the patients often goes beyond clinic walls: “The local teams were, and still are, going the extra mile to offer them the best support and environment, beyond purely dialysis”. He added: “There was no plan B, only a desire to care for these suffering people – we decided to help, before we knew we'd receive government assistance'.
With no immediate end to the war in sight, Ryszard explains: 'The plan is to provide care for everyone that needs it, for as long as is needed, with the competence, passion and inspiration that our organisation embodies. 'I'm proud and humbled of our team’s empathy, engagement and unanimous willingness to respond to the needs of this vulnerable group. It is a real testament to our 'For Life' ethos and an inspiration for us all”.
*as of 12 October 2022