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Conflict in Ukraine: One year on

Today, Friday 24 February, marks one year since the invasion of Ukraine began; an event that has also affected our local community.

We’ve seen refugees arrive to Swindon, many of whom have relied on local healthcare services to help them as they settled into life in our area.

It’s hard to imagine what life is like in Ukraine now, but we continue to have everyone affected in our thoughts on what will be a difficult day for many people.

Across the Trust over the past year, we’ve made an effort to help as many people affected as possible.

Our Occupational Health and Wellbeing teams have provided support to affected colleagues, while our Patient Advice and Liaison (PALS) team has also seen requests for translating materials into Ukrainian increase. Many of our Ukrainian and Russian speaking staff members have also come forward to support patients. 

We’ve also welcomed two members of staff from Ukraine to the hospital, over the past year.

They include Medical Support Worker, Olga Pantos, who until last year was working as a Cardiologist in Kyiv. Olga fled to the UK when war broke out, and now works at the hospital in our Cardiology team. She assists with acute admissions and diagnostic care.

Olga says it was a scary decision to move to another country, but one she had to make:

“About three weeks after the conflict started, it was so terrible because my children were scared of all the sounds and they saw fighting and missile attacks. It was very difficult for my children. That is why we had to move.”

When she arrived in Swindon, Olga was introduced to our medical team through a local Ukrainian meeting.

Olga joined in June 2022 as a Medical Support Worker in our Cardiology team and works across a range of areas including acute admissions and diagnostic care.

She says she has been welcomed with open arms by the Trust and her new colleagues.

She said: “Everyone in the Trust has been so helpful to me, especially with helping me learn English. I need to learn some of the special English guidelines and then maybe I can pass my exams and try to help British people.”

Olga returned to work at Great Western Hospital, with the help of Consultant Cardiologist, Dr Paul Foley. Paul says Olga has made a real difference to the team.

“Olga’s been tremendous, obviously English is not her first language, but she has picked it up really well. We’ve learnt a lot from Olga, as well as hopefully she’s learnt some things from us.”

As well as welcoming people from Ukraine to Swindon, one of our clinicians has done her bit to help people living through the conflict.

Palliative care specialist, Dr Rachel Clarke, went to Kyiv last October to help teach medical students.

She was working in a hospice when the capital experienced a missile attack.

Rachel says her experience of being out there, was overwhelming:

“I went to Ukraine last year, to support local doctors and medical students in providing palliative medicine. There is a huge problem in Ukraine in at the moment with patients who are dying, who are in desperate need of palliative care, just not able to access it. I just think there is so much more we can all do to help.”

You can find out more about both Olga and Rachel’s stories, by watching our special video, here.

The past year has seen the GWH family come together to provide support for our colleagues, patients and visitors. As the conflict continues, we remain committed to supporting our local communities.

If you want to support people affected by the conflict in Ukraine, you can head to the Swindon Borough Council Website: https://www.swindon.gov.uk/info/20029/people_and_communities/1252/support_for_refugees_arriving_from_ukraine.

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