Ukraine's health care system collapsing under COVID-19 outbreak, even with few virus cases

# 11 May 2020 17:22 (UTC +04:00)

Medical workers in homemade protective masks and suits, with plastic bags over their shoes, APA reports citing Daily Sabah.

A hospital intended for 150 coronavirus patients now holding 250. A lack of filtration systems that forces autopsies to be done outside, under the trees, instead of in the hospital morgue.

Ukraine's troubled health care system has been overwhelmed by COVID-19, even though it has reported a relatively low number of cases – 15,648 infections and 408 deaths as of Monday.

Nowhere is the problem more evident than in the western city of Chernivtsi, with 2,324 confirmed infections in the city and the surrounding region. It is considered a hot spot of contagion, along with another western city, Ivano-Frankivsk, 100 kilometers (60 miles) away, and the capital, Kyiv.

Thousands of Ukrainians who had temporary jobs in Europe have returned home amid the pandemic and some brought the virus back with them.

As COVID-19 patients flood into the struggling hospitals, some doctors and nurses must buy their own protective gear or use improvised equipment. Many of them are getting sick: Medical workers account for about a fifth of all coronavirus cases in Ukraine.

"My soul is crying!” said Mykola Sharakhlitsky, an anesthesiologist at Chernivtsi’s main hospital as he cleaned a protective suit. "We are experiencing a shortage of medical equipment and protective gear, and we all get infected as a result.”

There is not a hospital-grade ventilator for the 250 patients in the facility in Chernivtsi, a city of 266,000 people.

"I don’t believe that a single hospital in Ukraine has all it needs,” said ICU chief Kostyantyn Dronyk. "We are short of everything.”

The crisis could not have struck at a worse time for Ukraine.