4 Ukrainian doctors infected with COVID-19 due to lack of safety equipment

Four doctors have been infected with the novel coronavirus in Ukraine’s western Ternopil Oblast due to a lack of critical protective equipment.

All four doctors either live or work in the Monastyryskyi District of Ternopil Oblast, the local center for fighting coronavirus announced late on March 25.

There are currently 15 cases of COVID-19 in the oblast, with eight more being verified. The number of cases in Ukraine reached over 160 on the morning of March 26.

One of the four infected doctors works in the local hospital. Its staff and patients are now quarantined so that they do not spread the disease further, Yulia Klymenko, a lawmaker with the 20-member Golos (Voice) faction in parliament, wrote on Facebook on March 26.

“Since today, the entire hospital is under isolation because of one doctor, who was sick for three weeks, has had coronavirus confirmed. The doctors cannot leave and go home,” Klymenko said.

She also stressed that the hospital lacks essential equipment for treating coronavirus, including tests and lung ventilators. “Local people are asking for help!” Klymenko wrote.

She described the spread of COVID-19 in Ternopil Oblast as a “critical situation.”

The Monastyryskyi hospital is crowdfunding to gather the money for a lung ventilator, according to its Facebook page.

The post, dated March 25, features photos of respirator masks, medical masks and hazmat suits. It says that the hospital’s staff is very grateful to an anonymous philanthropist who donated the personal protective equipment.

The same day, Vladimir Trush, the governor of Ternopil Oblast, said at a press briefing that the hospital has everything necessary and is one of the best equipped in the region, contradicting the message from the hospital itself.

But Golos lawmaker Oleksandra Ustinova disagrees. In an opinion piece for the Ukrainska Pravda news site, she wrote that doctors are not being provided with basic protective gear, and both the local authorities and the Minister of Health are to blame.

“They were infected due to the fact that health workers all across Ukraine still do not have basic protection against the virus: hazmat suits, masks, gloves,” she wrote, referring to doctors in Monastyrskyi District.

Ustinova accused Health Minister Illia Yemets of reluctance to launch procurement to buy equipment for the doctors.

According to her, the government of Oleksiy Honcharuk, which was fired on March 4, had approved a decree that provided for the purchase of 1.1 million medical masks, 125 hazmat suits and almost 150,000 respirator masks for Ukrainian doctors. Honcharuk signed the document on Jan. 19.

However, since then, nothing has happened, despite the urgency of the situation, Ustinova wrote.

“For a doctor, a protection suit today is like a body armor vest for the military on the front line,” she said.

That delay was caused by Yemets’ unwillingness to buy the supplies through an international organization — instead, he wanted to buy them through an individual who planned to profiteer off the sale, Ustinova alleged.

On March 24, the Ministry of Health issued an official statement saying it would launch an internal investigation.

© 2020 Kyiv Post

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