Israel Establishes Field Hospital in Western Ukraine

Israel Establishes Field Hospital in Western Ukraine

In first three weeks of operation, “Kochav Meir” (“Shining Star”) in Mostyska treated more than 3,000 people.

Medical Center workers training at a model field hospital similar to the ones set up in Ukraine for the wounded taken on March 8. // credit Flash90
Medical Center workers training at a model field hospital similar to the ones set up in Ukraine for the wounded taken on March 8. // credit Flash90

On March 22, Israel became the first known country to establish a field hospital in Ukraine. According to the Israeli government, it was also the first time that the nation had built an entirely civilian hospital beyond its borders.

Dubbed “Kochav Meir” (“Shining Star”), it was named in memory of Israel’s fourth prime minister, Golda Meir, who was born in Kyiv in 1898. Built near a school in Mostyska, a town of 10,000 people about 30 miles west of Lviv and about nine miles from the border with Poland, the hospital treated about 3,000 patients in its first three weeks of operation.

A pregnant woman wounded in the Russian bombing of a Ukrainian maternity hospital has died along with her baby, reports say. // Credit: AP

On average, medical staff treat some 200 refugees from the region a day, 10 to 20 percent of whom are children.

The Israeli government, which has largely funded the hospital, provided a virtual tour of the facility to the press. Dr. Asaf Vivante, who led the tour, explained that the facility has four main goals: to treat any person requiring acute or chronic medical care, to provide mental assistance, to provide telemedicine support and to train local medical teams. In the first three weeks of the hospital’s operation, Israeli doctors trained some 300 local physicians, he said.

Approximately 80 Israeli medical professionals have been flown to the Ukraine to staff the field hospital, including psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.

The hospital is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Those hours, however, are usually interrupted three to four times a day by air raid sirens, forcing everyone to flee for safety in the school’s basement, said Vivante, who is the deputy head of the delegation and head of pediatrics at Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s largest hospital.

Vivante said that staff members know how many patients they are treating per day because each one is registered, and the process is entirely computerized. The field hospital uses both the nearby school and heated tents for registration. Each morning, the staff is greeted with long queues requiring triage.

Walking from one tent to another, Vivante pointed out the signs reflecting the specialties offered inside. The radiology area, for example, included x-ray machines and ultrasound equipment brought from Israel, as well as an obstetrics and gynecology tent.

Man injured in bombing in Ukraine seeks medical attention. // Credit: AP

The pediatric tent, unlike the others, was decorated with colorful hanging stars and other vibrant ornaments.

Inside the school, Vivante took the audience through designated classes for educating medical teams, where essential skills such as life support are taught. “Thirty medical personnel are trained every day,” he said.

“The medical center is open to anyone in need,” said Dr. Asaf Vivante, although the hospital mostly serves refugees and local residents.

The telemedicine area included special equipment that allows images to be sent back to ultrasound specialists at Sheba Hospital in Israel. Inside the school, one classroom has been converted into a children’s ward. There’s a pharmacy stocked with medications sent from Israel, which also ships over laboratory equipment.

Few of the patients arrive at the field hospital directly from the most intense zones of the conflict, which are mostly further east. But, two days prior to the virtual tour, a 70-year-old Jewish woman came to the hospital from an area that had been bombed, interrupting her colon cancer treatment, Vivante said. The field hospital personnel helped to transfer her to Sheba Hospital.

Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky said that Israel’s first priority prior to setting up the field hospital was to extract Israelis citizens.

Vivante stressed that “the medical center is open to anyone in need,” regardless of their religion. To make sure that the surrounding population is aware of the services it provides, the field hospital advertises in the local media.

The entire operation was set up very quickly once the personnel and equipment arrived.

Prior to the virtual tour, Michael Brodsky, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, noted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “not Israel’s war. But we have a lot in common with this region.” Once Russia attacked Ukraine, Israel’s first concern was extracting the estimated 10,000 Israelis living in the country at the time, Brodsky said. As many as 1,000 Israelis remain in Ukraine, by choice.

Israeli doctors on their way to help the injured Ukraine refugees.

“From the beginning, Israel decided to concentrate on what we know best,” Brodsky said, referring to medical treatment. “It was natural to focus on this.” In the coming weeks, Israel will be flying in humanitarian aid to various regions of Ukraine on a weekly basis, including medications and medical devices.

This is significant because the field hospital has a lack of morphine and blood products, although it collaborates with the local hospital to get what it needs, Dr. Vivante said.

David Dagan, the head of the field hospital mission, told the Times of Israel, “We will do our best to be the shining star in the refugees’ medical journey.”

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