Victor Hetmanczuk, Canada Ukraine Foundation for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
Canada Ukraine Foundation has been assisting Ukraine in various medical needs since 2014. The poor conditions of Ukrainian rural medicine have been in the spotlight for quite some time. When President Poroshenko announced in August, 2017, that Ukraine was going to invest into improvements of its rural health system UAH 4 billion (CAD 200M), it was time to start assisting Ukraine in this process. One of the ways to do that was to share the experience of Canada’s rural medicine with Ukrainians.
In September, 2017, CUF’s President Victor Hetmanczuk sent an email to the Acting Minister of Health Dr. Ulana Suprun to propose a project that would bring three rural doctors to the University of Calgary’s annual Emergency Medicine Conference for Rural Hospitals in January 2018.
The Ministry of Health sanctioned the trip in October, 2017. Candidates would be selected through an open contest. They had to work in villages, speak English and write a 300-word motivational letter why they wanted to attend the conference.
Out of 50 clean applications, in December, 2017, Victor Hetmanczuk from CUF and Deputy Minister of Health Oleksandr Linchevskiy picked three successful candidates.
CUF became the sole sponsor and organizer of the project, starting from Canadian visas, travel arrangements to facilitation during the visit. The total budget of the project amounted to CAD $ 14,400.
The Ukrainian doctors participated in the conference on January 19 to 21, 2018, in Banff, Alberta and were able to observe local hospitals and emergency services. As the conference’s sessions progressed, Ukrainian doctors showed genuine interest and asked questions of the main speakers and other participants.
The doctors also visited a hospital in Canmore, population 14,000, and a Community Mental Health clinic located in a shopping centre in Calgary.
At the University of Calgary campus, they watched a live demonstration of the Rural Videoconference Program. This is a series of weekly, one-hour educational sessions via video conference presented by clinical experts. There were over 60 sites connected for this session. Presenter was in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Each presentation was focused on evidence-based information that is directly applicable to rural primary care and hospital environments.
A one-hour meeting was held with the Director of the Continuing Medical Education program who explained to the Ukrainian doctors how the system works in Alberta.
The Banff Rural Hospital was next door to the conference venue, so participants had the workshops in a real emergency room. They also studied the STARS air ambulance system and visited the STARS mobile training bus, parked in the hospital parking lot.
It needs to be noted that Canadian rural hospitals are not equivalent to the Ukrainian ones – there is a big gap in infrastructure and services performed. Some topics at the conference were not applicable for the Ukrainian participants due to current state of affairs in the Ukrainian rural health system. But this gave the doctors valuable information on how the Ukrainian system needs to develop.
One of the participants, Ihor Zastavnyy, a general practitioner from Krakovets, Lviv oblast, noted that a plan needs to be formed for development of Emergency Rooms in Lviv oblast. He was ready to participate in trainings for rural doctors in emergency medical care. He also planned to implement changes at the Krakovets ambulatory based on the medical knowledge he gained at the conference.
A family doctor Vadym Vus from Karpуlivka, Rivne oblast, noted that at the conference he gained information that would allow him to raise the quality and lower the cost of services he provides. In Canada, he obtained numerous contacts for such future endeavors as medical staff exchanges, acquisition of medical devices and cooperation with professional organizations.
The Ukrainian doctors also had a chance to learn about the Ukrainian Canadian community and its history. They visited the Internment Museum in Banff and St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Cultural Centre in Calgary. On one of the evenings, they had a meet and greet session with the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Calgary at The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church. They also were hosted in a private home of a Ukrainian Canadian family for supper.
The long-term impact of the visit on professional careers of the Ukrainian participants and changes to the rural health in their villages is going to be monitored by CUF for at least three years. The participants have already started up an NGO group, Academy of Family Medicine of Ukraine. They are training other doctors about the ICPC-2 (International Classification of Primary Care) program. As events unfold, we will report the results.