Kyiv, November 12, 2015. It is hard to help combat veterans return to full-fledged life without physical rehabilitation. However, the occupation of a physical therapist in Ukraine is not regulated, such profession does not exist in the approved personnel chart within institutions of the Healthcare Ministry. That’s why at the moment there is a big problem of rehabilitation services provision to wounded servicemen. There are no specialists who would be able to provide respective quality services, said Olesia Kalandyak, board member of the Ukrainian Association of Physical Therapy, physical therapist of the military-medical center of the western region, coordinator of USAID rehabilitation project “Team Ukraine” at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. Despite the large number of wounded over the time of combat actions the issue is being addressed in some places at local level. For example, said Kalandyak, a rehabilitation department was opened at Lviv military hospital. “We’ve already got seven physical therapists who are working but it is not the solution as the physical therapists are registered as massage nurses or exercise therapy nurses,” she explained.
Vsevolod Steblyuk, Advisor to Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Colonel of the medical service corps, said that the rehabilitation direction within the Defense Ministry started developing in 2015. “In the course of 2014 […] 150 wounded soldiers received rehabilitation in health resort institutions. In 2015, as of today, they are 2800, 90% have undergone rehabilitation,” he noted. However, lack of the legal basis slows down the process. Last year a group of high-level professionals, members of professional medical associations, addressed the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s Parliament) asking to revise the basis used for rehabilitation of wounded in Ukraine. The produced bill was drawing on the experience of Israel and the Baltic states. The necessary changes were suggested in the beginning of 2015, the parliamentary healthcare committee is dealing with the case. However, according to Colonel Steblyuk almost no progress has been achieved in revising the draft laws in question as rehabilitation is a suitable theme for PR and for gaining political capital. “As of today the progress actually did not go further than the first article of the law entitled “definitions”. Terms “physical therapist” and “occupational therapist” are being persistently blocked. Who blocks it? – A group of people who do not want to develop rehabilitation medicine in Ukraine, these are the people who are holding on to their positions. Today physical therapist is a medical specialization trained within three months after the medic specializes. It is actually limited to prescribing equipment-based methods of physical therapy and to using the equipment that should have been kept in the medical museum,” said Colonel Steblyuk.
He said reforming is blocked by those who occupy positions of chief non-staff physical therapists and do not want to lose their positions within the Academy of Sciences “because there is a position of an academician, associate member of the Academy in “physical therapy” and “health resort studies” specializations, these are the subjects far from actual rehabilitation,” emphasized the Colonel of the medical service corps. He is convinced that without specializations “physical therapist” and “occupational therapist” Ukraine is not going to move further than an improved USSR-type model of health resort treatment. Several universities are ready to teach physical therapists, Canadian government and diaspora have suggested their assistance, particularly, in providing respective knowledge and experience. However, it needs to be written in the law, said Ulana Suprun, Director of Humanitarian Initiatives at Ukrainian World Congress, founder of “Patriot Defence” volunteer project. She said a school of rehabilitation medicine has been opened in Ukraine. Physical therapists and occupational therapists courses will be based on the Master’s program but it needs to be duly written in the law. In order to remind the officials that it is time to move from words to actions combat veterans from Lviv wounded last year came to the sitting of the parliamentary committee. They felt themselves how important rehabilitation is.
Serhiy Kalytyuk, combat veteran of the 25th Dnipropetrovsk Airborne brigade, was wounded on June 19, 2014. He said that after the medical aid was first provided in the Dnipropetrovsk hospital he was sent to the Lviv hospital. Right after the intensive care a physical therapist started working with him, “thanks to that I had no bedsores, four months after while we were in the hospital we learnt everything – how to move in a wheelchair etc.,” he said. His brother-in-arms Roman Panchenko from the same 25th Dnipropetrovsk Airborne brigade was wounded same day as Serhiy and was moved to Lviv on the third day after the surgery. “I was able to do nothing on my own, neither turn or dress up, nor eat. I started training with the physical therapist […] and four months after – this includes a month at intensive care and three months of rehabilitation, I was able to do everything but walk,” the serviceman recalls. Viktor Lehkodukh, an active duty serviceman, an officer of the same brigade says he was just lying for a long time, he could not even sit in the wheel chair but thanks to the physical therapists he can now walk with a walking frame for 70 meters. The servicemen are convinced that the state needs to pay special attention to the issue, “there is no need to construct rehabilitation centers or use them for money laundering, first of all specialized professional personnel is required,” the serviceman thinks. It is better to spend the money on physical therapists training as equipment is not as important as good rehabilitation specialists. “If you do not want to help at least don’t hamper,” Viktor addressed those who block development of rehabilitation in Ukraine on behalf of all his brothers-in-arms.