Ukraine has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the region. Because of its underfunded and struggling health care system, the situation has turned dire nearly two years since the virus swept into Europe.
Doctors are pushing beyond their limit. There is a serious lack of doctors and medical personnel, increasingly more serious patients, and they are running short on beds.
“We are extinguishing the fire again. We are working as at the front, but our strength and capabilities are limited,” said Molchanov, who works at the hospital in the city in southern Ukraine on the Dnieper River. “We are working to the limit.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration inherited a health care system that was undermined by reforms launched by his predecessor that closed many small-town hospitals.
In those communities, people have to seek care in large cities. If the problem is severe enough that a patient needs an ambulance, the wait can be as long as eight hours.
“They are bringing patients in extremely difficult condition, with a protracted form” of COVID-19, said Dr. Anatoliy Galachenko, who also works at the tent hospital. “The main reason is the remoteness of settlements and the impossibility of providing assistance at the primary stages of the disease.”
Things are so bad that there is no time to even change bedding in-between patients. Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who leads the opposition Batkivshchyna party, and who has visited many hospitals in Ukraine admitted that a new patient immediately comes to the bed of a discharged person as there are shortages everywhere.
False information about COVID is floating around. Doctors complain that vaccine falsehoods about containing microchips or that they cause infertility and disease is driving the COVID-19 surge. Fake certificates are making the doctor’s job harder.
“People believe in the most absurd rumors about chips, infertility and the dangers of vaccines, elderly people from risk groups massively refuse to be vaccinated, and this is very harmful and increases the burden on doctors,” said Dr. Oleksandr Molchanov. “People trust their neighbors more than doctors.”
Says Molchanov, “We are working to the limit, but we are tired of fighting not only with disease, but also with stupidity.”