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A hundred-year old hospital in Bukovyna
There is a hospital in the town of Storozhynets in Bukovyna, in western Ukraine, which is a hundred years old. It is one of the hospitals in Bukovyna that is a leader in introduction of advanced methods in health protection and medical treatment.
Matviy Plehutsa, head physician of this hospital, was interviewed by Mariya VLAD, WU senior editor.
What is the most distinguishing feature of your hospital among other hospitals of Bukovyna?
I think, it is the highly qualified and highly professional staff of the hospital.
Your hospital is one of the oldest in Ukraine. Who founded the hospital?
In 1887, Atanasiy Okunyevsky, a doctor from Bukovyna, attended the World Congress of Physicians. It must have given him some new ideas. He and his daughter Sofiya, the first woman doctor in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire (a large part of western Ukraine, including Bukovyna, were under Austrian-Hungarian domination at that time), were great enthusiasts of making advances of medical science and practice available to a large number of people, and in 1907 they founded a hospital in the town of Storozhynets. The charter of the hospital was approved by the central authorities in Vienna in September 1907, and by the end of the year the construction of the first building of the newly-founded hospital was completed.
Whom, among the physicians who worked at the hospital in later years, would you like to mention?
Volodymyr Potop is surely one of them. He was a great surgeon. He headed the hospital from 1954 to 1984. He was instrumental in adding new departments to the hospital — a traumatology department, a neurology department and an otorhinolaryngological department, and he also managed to staff the hospital with highly qualified medical personnel, some of whom are still working at the hospital.
When did you become head doctor?
Could you say a few words about yourself? Where are you from? What is your background? Where did you study?
I was born in 1950 and lived with my parents in the village of Dovhopole which is situated high up in the Carpathian Mountains. I had an ambition to become a doctor and went to study at a medical secondary school. Upon graduation I worked in the villages of Holoshyn, Serhiya and Dovhopole as a doctor’s assistant. Then I served in the army and after discharge from the army I went to study at a medical college. I graduated cum laude and continued my studies and training as an intern. Since 1992 I’ve been working in this hospital in Storozhynets. I’ve been awarded a title of honorary doctor and a medal “For Merit”. My elder son Oleksandr is studying to be a surgeon, and my younger son Ihor works as a traumatologist.
What, in your opinion, are your main achievements as head doctor, and achievements of your hospital?
The main achievement, as I’ve already said, is the personnel of the hospital — they are excellently trained, qualified and professional. And we are all like-minded. It helps a lot in work. In 1998 we were the first in Bukovyna to introduce medical insurance. The members of the insurance fund can get all kinds of treatment for which the fund pays. Later, similar medical insurance funds were established in other places of Chernivtsi Oblast and in other parts of Ukraine.
Could you describe the principles of these medical insurance funds in more detail?
It works like this. Working members of our Likarnyana kasa medical insurance fund pay one percent of their monthly wages to the fund. 47 companies and organizations and five and a half thousand people are members of our fund. Those who are retired pay one percent of their monthly pensions. Our fund has been working successfully for eight years now and we’ve had no complaints.
What about those who are not members of your fund? Can they get treatment at your hospital?
All the children below 16 years of age, the disabled and people of other privileged categories can get treatment at our hospital free of charge. We provide emergency treatment, including deliveries, free of charge. If you are not a member of our fund, you can get treatment at our hospital all the same but you will have to pay for certain things, medicines, for example.
In 2006, your hospital was recognized as “a children-friendly medical institution.” Does it mean that the attitude of other hospitals in Bukovyna is less friendly?
No, of course not. Being recognized as children-friendly in our case meant that we had launched some pilot projects which dealt with the system of children’s health protection. And that includes pregnancies and deliveries too.
Pregnancies and deliveries?
Yes. This particular project is called Zdorova mama — zdorova dytyna (Healthy Mother Means a Healthy Child). It’s a joint Ukrainian-American project. One of the features of the project is letting fathers or other relatives be present at the delivery. And the woman can be delivered of her baby anywhere she wants, even in the water, not only on the special obstetric or delivery beds, as it used to be. The child stays with the mother since the moment of birth. Earlier, the child was taken away from the mother and given back to be breastfed only a couple of days later. Now, the mother can start breastfeeding very soon after delivery. Thus the child feels the attention of both parents from the moment of birth.
Since when have you been using this approach?
Since March 2007. Members of an international commission with participation of US and French gynecologists and neonatologists analyzed the results and our hospital was recognized to be the leader in introducing new approaches to delivery among hospitals in eight Oblasts of Ukraine. Hospitals in ten other Oblasts were advised to follow in our footsteps.
Medical care provided for people in the countryside in Ukraine is in need of a lot of improvement. Do people who live in the Carpathian Mountains have access to adequate medical care?
We are trying hard to do as much as we can. We’ve introduced what we call the services of family doctors. Wherever possible, we, in Bukovyna, have modernized the available medical facilities in villages and we have good physicians of various specializations working at such medical facilities, which have emergency and intensive therapy departments too. In many cases, it is vitally important that patients get emergency treatment close to where they live rather than be taken to a big hospital in a regional center. New medical facilities, which are properly equipped and staffed, keep being established in villages of the Carpathians.
One of such local medical facilities is working particularly successfully in a hospital in the village of Velyky Kuchuriv. This hospital provides medical care for people of the three neighboring villages.
What’s so special about that hospital in Velyky Kuchuriv?
It’s not so much the hospital itself as the doctors who work there that are special. The surgeon Ivan Horobets worked at that hospital for fifty years. His wife Halyna is also a doctor, a therapist. These two great medical enthusiasts actually founded medical care in their village. Ivan Horobets used to be head doctor of the hospital in Velyky Kuchuriv for many years. He and his wife are greatly respected by the villagers. Ivan Horobets retired twenty years ago but he has never stopped providing medical help and advice. He is a wise man who knows not only the secrets of medicine but of the human nature as well. He has never refused to help anyone who turned to him for help. I wish we had more people like Ivan Horobets among doctors of younger generations.
Some time ago I heard on the news that here, in Bukovyna, a patient had been brought back to life after he had been actually dead.
Yes, I remember that case rather well. A young man from the village of Panka — I think his name was Vasyl Krasovsky — shortly before he was to be married, climbed on the roof of his house to install a TV antenna. Inadvertently, he touched a high-voltage line that passed above his house and got badly electrocuted. When he was brought to hospital, he was all black, with no signs of life. But he was resuscitated and though he spent the next seventy days in hospital in a coma, the treatment he was given restored the functioning of his heart and brain which had been affected particularly badly. Doctor Vasyl Manchuk’s efforts were particularly helpful in bringing Vasyl Krasovsky back to normal life. When he was discharged from hospital, Krasovsky was almost as good as new. He did get married and now has a child by his wife. Life goes on.
In wrapping up this conversation, I can’t help mentioning a very beautiful church that I’ve noticed close to the hospital.
We had this church built nine years ago and we are proud of it. It is a source of spiritual uplifting. The church is dedicated to St Matthew the Evangelist. Our patients attend the services, light the candles. Villagers have their children baptized in the church. Religious feasts are celebrated with both patients and villagers in attendance. Thanks to the church, we have a very nice atmosphere in and around the hospital — no smoking, no raised voices. It gives us inspiration for treating people.
Photos by Oleksandr Plehutsa
and from the hospital’s archives
The staff of the hospital; Volodymyr Potop,
Matviy Plehutsa, head doctor of the hospital
The church nearby the hospital that gives
State-of-the art equipment saves
Birth rates in Storozhynets
Halyna and Ivan Horobets (center)