‘We are prepared for anything’: onboard Ukraine’s hospital train

The next day, we started our evacuation project,” recalls Zharkova. That was March 2022. MSF’s hospital-on-rails has since completed more than 100 missions, and evacuated over 3,300 patients to relative safety in the west from the conflict ravaged east. It rescues victims of shelling and artillery, orphans, pensioners, and cancer patients. Zharkova says that an ambulance can only accommodate one or two patients. “Trains are safer than automobile transport, particularly for long-distance evacuates.” MSF worked with Ukrainian Railways to develop the medical trains in the early days after the Russian invasion. It has eight carriages including an intensive-care unit, an oxygen-generator to supply intubated intubated patients and two carriages for in-patients. The idea is to free bed space from the conflict zones’ overburdened and shattered medical units by railing them to western cities such as Lviv, Lutsk, and Ternopil. Staff also provide psychological support to evacuees, who may be suffering from shell shock or early stages of grief. “But I’m sure my team would agree, the most traumatizing moments for us were transferring injured children. It’s terrible to see these children’s lives disrupted.”
You can only fit one or two patients in an ambulance. We can evacuate 42 patients with the train
Sometimes, power outages or warnings about conflict ahead cause the train to come to a halt in rural Ukraine. The train has experienced near misses, despite avoiding a direct attack. In April of last year, the train left Kramatorsk just hours before a missile attack killed 60 people and injured another 100. Zharkova, her team and the injured returned the next day to retrieve them. The train would make two trips per week until 2022. Zharkova reports that the number of civilian deaths has decreased after months of evacuations. But, the mission is not over. Zharkova, who is a cautiously optimistic woman, is looking forward to returning east to bring displaced patients to their liberated homes. “Hopefully, it will be as quickly as possible,” says Zharkova. “For now, our team is prepared for everything.”Main Image: MSFHelp us end the bias against bad newsPositive news helps more people than ever get a balanced view of the world. While other news outlets are dominated by doom and woe, our solutions journalism is here to empower you and support your wellbeing. Positive News is proving to the media, through its growing audience and impact, that good news is important. But our reporting comes at a price and, as a non-profit, independent media organisation, we depend on the financial support of our readers. Please consider becoming a Positive news supporter if you value our work and can afford it. You can directly fund the production and distribution of our stories for as little as PS1 a month. This will help them to reach more people.

 This health train is the first to operate in a war zone, transporting injured civilians from southeast to eastern Ukraine.
Positive News’ first appearance of the phrase” We are prepared for anything” was on Ukraine’s hospital train. 

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