Duty or Heroism? The Story of Sloviansk Rayon Hospital

Mar 29, 2016

The small town of Mykolaivka is located a few kilometers away from the city of Sloviansk, Donetsk oblast. This area, previously little known to the wider public, has become famous for the heavy battles that unfolded here in the summer of 2014. Numerous important infrastructure and residential buildings were damaged, and hundreds of locals suffered injuries.

“People arrived all the time, wounded and frightened. We did what any doctor has to do – we stayed at our posts and helped all those in need. During the shelling we were the only hospital still open in the area, so we had no choice – we had to work despite the circumstances. We went down to the basement and operated there for three days,” recalls Olexandr Bilanov, Chief Doctor of Sloviansk Central Rayon Hospital.

This major healthcare facility is located on Myr Street, which means “Peace Street” in Ukrainian. Sadly and ironically, this street was shelled heavily during the fights in the area. Missiles were falling a few metres away from the hospital - so close that heavy explosive blasts damaged windows and even the roof of the building.

By the time UNDP experts visited the hospital, only basic recovery was being conducted. Doctors had to put a bucket near the operating table to collect the water falling from the ceiling. Running the old Soviet X-ray machine on a rainy day was too risky – high voltage and a leaking roof do not combine well.

At the same time, the hospital continued to play an important role in the healthcare system of the region; 42 000 people were treated here in 2015, including not only locals but also thousands of IDPs who have moved to Sloviansk rayon from the areas not controlled by the Ukrainian Government.

With financial support from the Government of Japan, UNDP managed to repair all of the damage and return the hospital to normal life again. The total cost of reconstruction was 7 million UAH, which included price of the supplies, works, design, and audit services.

A construction company displaced from Donetsk won the tender to conduct the reconstruction. Besides the owners, other IDPs received employment opportunities through this project and the doctors share their warm memories about this cooperation with newcomers. Moreover, several doctors who recently moved to Mykolaivka from the eastern parts of Donetsk oblast have now joined the medical team.

“The conflict made us forget that there are other colors besides grey. Now we can see that the colors of rainbow are still there,” Olexandr Bilanov noted during the opening ceremony at the restored hospital.

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