17th June 2022
Dr Kateryna Kachurets
A Kyiv-born GP is at the heart of the health service’s response to the arrival of thousands of Ukrainian refugees following the Russia invasion back in February.
Dr Kateryna Kachurets, originally from the Ukrainian capital, moved to Ireland six years ago and is a GP in Dublin and currently working with the HSE and the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) on the Ukrainian crisis response. She did her medical training in Poland, and her intern year in Dublin, while completing her GP training in the Midlands scheme in Naas and Tullamore.
“Ireland has welcomed over 30,000 Ukrainian people since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24th. It is anticipated that people will continue to arrive as the situation develops. We are well aware that many will have encountered very physically and emotionally challenging journeys to get to Ireland,” she explained.
She said the highest priority for people arriving in the country will be finding accommodation and addressing any immediate medical issues. The facilitation of Ukrainians in accessing healthcare will form an integral part of their experience in Ireland and will play a big role during this traumatic time, said Kateryna.
“For most Ukrainian nationals, adjusting to life in Ireland will take time. Many will face language difficulties, navigation of a different healthcare system, enrolling children in schools within the community, accessing childcare and applying for employment. Not to mention, having to gradually accept the uncertainty of their future and immediate life upheaval. The approach to daily living in western Europe compared to Ukraine differs in a myriad of ways, notably in the provision of healthcare and the transport system. For example, a lot of areas are much more regulated in Ireland, compared to Ukraine, such a private businesses, healthcare, and education.”
Same health and social care services
She explained that Ukrainian people can access the same health and social care services as people already living here. This has been expedited by the HSE and the Department of Social Protection with fast-tracking of PPS number assignment to those who register on entering Ireland.
This facilitates access to a medical card with health screening services available as needed upon arrival, for example, COVID advice and relevant vaccinations. Medical emergency guides offering English-Ukrainian and English-Russian phrasebooks are available, as well as health information in Ukrainian and Russian on the HSE website.
“Significant differences exist between the healthcare systems in Ireland and Ukraine. The first major difference would be that medical care is largely focused within secondary care in Ukraine. With relatively easy access to specialist care, patients normally attend a specialist first-line without any initial contact with a GP,” said Kateryna.
“On-demand lab tests and imaging are also available in Ukraine – with no referral needed for any laboratory, whereby patients can decide which diagnostic tests they think they need, and bring it to a doctor later for interpretation.
“A further disparity is that free medical care in Ukraine, is not, in actuality free in Ukraine. By law, Ukrainian health care is supposed to be free. However, in reality, patients end up paying for almost everything: medications, procedures, doctors’ time, hospital stays. Therefore, we must anticipate many patients in advanced stages of disease many of whom are afraid of going to the hospital because they cannot afford the cost of examination and treatment.
"I wish to thank everyone in Ireland for the outpouring of support and love for my home country in recent months. We will continue to respond to the evolving situation and do our upmost to support newly arrived Ukrainians here in Ireland,” she added.