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NATO instructors are teaching battlefield medicine to Ukrainians

The Field Hospital project has started at the Dnipropetrovsk Mechnikov Regional Hospital
15 December, 17:39

The project is providing military medics with training in operational and tactical combat casualty care according to NATO standards. The five-day training course aims to aid not only medics, but also soldiers who are slated to be sent to the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) area or are already serving there. Classes are conducted by British and American instructors who have got their experience of providing battlefield medical care in the world’s conflict zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. They know better than anyone else how important is every bit of time in saving the wounded soldiers. According to them, the casualty survival rate increases by 15 percent if first aid is provided to soldiers timely and on the battlefield itself.

The foreign instructors believe that Ukraine has serious issues with medical evacuation from the battlefield. The chief obstacle here is not so much lack of medical knowledge but rather tactical deficiencies. NATO standards-compliant combat casualty care instructor Mykola Kovalchuk said that these standards of care were very different from Ukrainian ones, which have survived unchanged since the Soviet time. “It may safely be said that our Armed Forces do not have generalized experience in providing tactical combat casualty care. Some medics and individual units do have it, but it is mostly absent overall. Furthermore, we had a prevailing doctrine until five or six years ago that called for demilitarization of the whole military health service. Our medics lack knowledge: while hospital medicine has somehow adjusted, and surgeons’ experience and professionalism allows them to save wounded men, our pre-hospital, tactical, battlefield medicine, so-called self-help techniques are still deficient, and it is important. When a wounded man is brought to a hospital having lost three to four liters of blood, no surgeon can save him,” Kovalchuk said.

The instructors conduct the five-day training course not only for medics, but also for soldiers serving in the ATO area. The technique they teach everyone first of all is the correct way to stop severe bleeding because it is the most frequent cause of death for soldiers. “The doctor cannot always be there,” a soldier stationed near Debaltseve told us. “Therefore, it is very important to learn how to make bleeding stop, properly apply a tourniquet and use medical equipment.”

Good students of the Dnipropetrovsk training course will be presented with special medical bags by the instructors. The bags are equipped with everything needed for a battlefield medic according to NATO standards. The instructors call these bags “little operating rooms.” As many as 50 such bags were presented to military medics and soldiers already on the first day of the classes.

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