Through computerization, UNHCR helps increase access to health services along the Line of Contact in eastern Ukraine – Ukraine
“Last year we have witnessed a rapid development of electronic health services in Ukraine. Everything is now computerized, to the point that it has become almost impossible to treat patients without a computer. The new electronic system is mandatory for the renewing documents, getting prescriptions and making appointments for doctor’s appointments,” shares Dr. Oleh Suprun from the city of Shchastia while holding a brand new computer still in its original packaging. “We are now fully equipped to provide electronic services to the local population.”
In December 2021 and January 2022, UNHCR delivered 17 laptops to village health centers located in the 0-5 km zone along the contact line in eastern Ukraine.
Last year, UNHCR Protection Tracker identified that the majority of frontline healthcare facilities – first aid points (FAP) and outpatients – did not have computers to facilitate access to the e-healthcare system. The situation has been aggravated by the fact that older people make up 60-80% of the population living in settlements close to the contact line. Often they do not own a computer or lack the necessary computer skills. Similarly, young low-income households cannot access online health care services because they cannot afford a computer or an Internet connection.
“Access to medical services is extremely important to protect vulnerable people affected by the conflict. UNHCR has therefore developed a project to computerize local health care structures in villages located very close to the line of contact”, explains Oleksandra Lytvynenko, head of the UNHCR field unit. in Sievierodonetsk.
Oleksandra Lytvynenko further explains that today many health services cannot be accessed without a computer. For example, physicians cannot record patient medical histories, issue digital sick leave certificates, or register vulnerable patients for vaccination. Similarly, patients cannot make appointments with specialists outside their community. Thus, they have to spend time and money going back and forth.
“When the presence of doctors of different specialties is limited in small towns, telemedicine can provide a solution to specific needs”, continues Oleksandra Lytvynenko. “We learned that some outpatients were equipped with telemedicine systems but did not have computers. The new computers will allow more efficient work with the system. In addition, the computers will facilitate remote medical consultations in ambulances and hospitals. FAPs that are not equipped with telemedicine systems.”
“Now that we are fully equipped to provide online services to local people, we can double the speed of the overall process. Referrals to specialist doctors are much easier and faster. And our doctors don’t need to be distracted from the more patient,” says Dr. Oleh Suprun. “Basically anyone can do it. Most of our healthcare workers are older and have some difficulty working with a computer. But they have received online training and technical support is always available. A health center can treat 40 people. In total, we cover 25,000 people in our area of responsibility.”
Computerization is a way for UNHCR to help people access essential services, such as health care in isolated camps near the line of contact. It allows people to stay in their homes without feeling obliged to travel to access basic services and protection.
In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR and partners provided resources to frontline medical facilities. In 20 remote and isolated localities of Lugansk oblast, medical institutions received medical training, disposable sheets, cleaning kits and detergents to better fight the pandemic.
UNHCR is very grateful to its donors for their support in building the capacity of local health facilities in the Luhansk region, and in particular to Estonia, whose funding made this project possible.
This article was edited by Sarah Vallée. Find volunteer opportunities on https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en