Hundreds of staff and patients have been forced to live in psychiatric hospitals in Ukraine as they’re made homeless by the conflict while hospital chiefs warn they could run out of medication within one month.
In an interview with The Independent, Dr, Yurij Zakal, vice president of Ukrainian Association of Psychiatrists in Ukraine and Dr Serhiy Mykhnyak a chief psychiatrist, said psychiatric hospitals across Ukraine were in a “disturbing” situation, as the units in the eastern parts of the city become surrounded.
The doctors said there was a “sheer” need for medication across all of the hospitals and there was a risk of running out within a month which would impact the treatment of acutely unwell patients.
Following a conference call with leading colleagues on Friday, the reported stories told of mental health patients living in “terrible conditions”, with a “limited stock of food.”
The doctors said in one hospital there were “fifty patients who remain homeless and about more than one hundred staff living in the hospital, because they have nowhere to return.”
Talking about the impact to mental health patients they said: “We experienced a sheer need for medications for the acute patients that are attending our hospital.”
He said there were hundreds of patients who cannot be discharged as they need full time care, many of them “severely disabled” who it is very difficult to move into bomb shelters.
The clinicians said their hospital were seeing around 30 to 40 patients admitted for care every day, including some military officers experiencing mental illness.
“We expect that there will be more cases because we have a growth of our patients that came from other districts of the country.”
The pair warned “any hospital is at risk to see they [Russian Military] don’t make difference.”
“We feel very unanimous support of European community,” they said but added, “a big demand from many people in Ukraine that we are asking to help us close in the sky, because there is a big threat coming from bombings from rockets.”
Dmytro Martsenkovskyi a psychiatrist based in Kyiv told The Independent as Ukrainian psychiatrist care was very centralised care and hospitals based in cities that are being bombed many patients receiving outpatient care cannot reach these hospitals to get their medication.
He added “many children or adults that are in general hospitals, they just do not have supplies of medication”
Dr Martsenkovskyi said “the most vulnerable of course at the moment is children with neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and autism. Because like they were receiving, especially those with ADHD, they were receiving medications that were not officially present on the market. So most in most of the cases, their parents were bringing this medication abroad from like European colleges and like, of course, at the moment, it’s impossible.”
He also said patients with the onset of acute illnesses, such as mental health emergencies, are not able to reach hospitals due to limited travel within the cities and ambulances having to focus on physical health emergencies.
The psychiatrist, who specialises in children’s mental health, said there is even a lack of access to psychiatric support within hospitals as staff cannot reach their work.
Violation of international law
Speaking with The Independent Emmanuele Capobianco chief of strategy and impact for World Health Organisation Foundation, said the attacks on health facilities were a “serious violation of international law” and that their protection needed to be a priority for all parties.
He said humanitarian organisations “cannot stop the bombs” he said it was “out there to others to take those decisions that can provide safe access to the health services that people and there is an urgent need to ensure that that happens, without further delays - we have lost already a very high number of lives that that are not going to come back”
The WHO Foundation director said the provision of health services in Ukraine was moving from hospitals to “underground places”, he said there were around 60 health facilities at the moment which were “not functioning”.
He said: “We understand there are a number of elderly fragile patients that have no possibility to move [who are] in a condition that is less than adequate, where transmission of diseases is of course heightened, that can include Covid one hand, but can also include other diseases could be tuberculosis, or vaccine preventable diseases measles.”
“A major reason for concern on top of that is we do have the indication of shortages of supplies, medical supplies for chronic conditions that will then unavoidably affect, negatively affect people that have chronic conditions like cancer, like diabetes.”
The WHO foundation has launched an appeal for donations to support WHO in delivering emergency healthcare aid to Ukraine and refugees in neighbouring countries.