Ukraine: New MSF medical train completes its first evacuation journey

2022 © Maurizio Debanne/MSF

A specially equipped medical train run by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) completed its first journey across Ukraine on April 26, carrying 26 patients from Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro to hospitals in Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv. Most required post-operative care following traumatic injuries.

MSF equipped and staffed the train to care for patients who needed to be medically evacuated from war-affected areas of eastern Ukraine, working in collaboration with Ukraine's Ministry of Health and National Railways. Hospitals in areas close to active war zones frequently send out urgent requests for patients to be referred to other hospitals in safer areas of the country. This is partly to manage their bed capacity as new patients keep coming with war wounds, but also to give the patients the best chance to have the dedicated medical care they need.

Inside the new medical evacuation train in Ukraine.
Ukraine 2022 © Maurizio Debanne/MSF

Since March 31, MSF has managed the medical referrals of nearly 300 patients from eastern to western Ukraine on a simpler, four-car train. They have included hospital patients, residents of long-term care facilities and young orphans who required care during the journey.

The new train has eight cars, with the capacity to transport about 36 patients at a time. It includes an intensive care car, supported by a car that generates oxygen for patients, as well as a generator to power all the medical devices needed to monitor the patients’ health.

"We are very pleased to be able to bring this larger and more medicalized train into service to assist overwhelmed hospitals in the east," said Marie Burton, coordinator of MSF's medical train. "We know the needs are high because the calls keep coming in. This is a new and quite technically advanced project, never done before by MSF."

MSF's smaller medical train also remains in service. Both trains also transport family members who accompany the patients during their journey.

"Our job now is to understand, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, which hospitals are in the greatest need to evacuate some of their patients, and to be as reactive as possible to their calls for assistance,” Burton said.