On April 28, Israel’s 66-bed Shining Star (Kochav Meir) field hospital in Mostyska, western Ukraine, completed its six-week mission.
More than 6,000 civilians were treated, 40 surgeries were performed and 21,000 lab tests and 800 diagnostic images analyzed. In addition, several severely ill or wounded citizens were airlifted to Israel for further treatment.
“We succeeded in establishing a civilian field hospital in Ukraine, a thing which six months ago many people in Israel thought impossible,” said Prof. Elhanan Bar-On, director of the Sheba’s Israel Center for Humanitarian Emergency and Disaster Medicine.
“When we came here, there was a lot of uncertainty about our ability to do it, but after six weeks of operation I think all those people understand this is possible and this is necessary.”
Running a field hospital under threat of Russian attack was “a little bit scary,” admitted Sheba Medical Center fetal MRI specialist Dr. Eldad Katorza, deputy director of Shining Star, “but we felt we were doing a great thing for the people of Ukraine. We helped more than 6,000 civilians, and … we are leaving behind us a huge legacy of hope to the Ukrainian people.”
Yoel Har-Even, director of the field hospital, said that most importantly, the Israelis “trained hundreds of physicians and nurses at bedside and in our training center to give them the ability and knowledge to continue taking care of their patients.”
The mission, involving 200 personnel, was led by the Israeli ministries of foreign affairs and health, along with Sheba Medical Center and the Clalit health maintenance organization (HMO). It was supported by the Shusterman Fund and the Joint Distribution Committee.
Opened on March 22, the field hospital was named in honor of former prime minister Golda Meir, who was born in Ukraine and established the Foreign Ministry’s MASHAV Agency for International Development Cooperation.
In his farewell address attended by dignitaries including the mayor of Mostyska and Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky, Har-Even noted that the 28th of April coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day.
He observed that “the very same Jewish people, who less than 80 years ago stood on this same land in the Ukraine — humiliated and persecuted as if they were subhuman: locked into ghettos, brutalized, gassed and murdered by the evil Nazis and their collaborators. Including the 4,000 Jewish citizens of Mostyska, who were all shot and dumped into a mass grave, during a single day, in 1942.”
Less than 80 years later, he continued, “we stand here, the second and third generations of those who survived that living hell. It’s the same ground, but this time we stand here as proud Jews and Israelis. Despite the painful memories, we chose to celebrate life, to focus on creating, growing, giving,” Har-Even said.
Cooperation between Sheba and the Ukrainian healthcare systems and organizations will continue, and several Israeli telehealth technologies used in the field hospital will be adapted for use in local clinics and hospitals.