Two pediatric cancer patients displaced by the war in Ukraine were taken to Toronto for treatment at the Sick Children’s Hospital, with an official calling the effort “one of the most complex logistical challenges” facing the hospital.
SickKids President and CEO Dr. Ronald Cohn said the children and their families were scheduled to arrive at the hospital in the next 24 to 36 hours, via Poland.
The non-governmental organization Aman Lara, founded last summer to help evacuate Afghans fleeing the Taliban, oversees the transport of the children. Meanwhile, Bristol Gate Capital Partners CEO Richard Hamm personally donated $200,000 to fly it here.
Cohn said that SickKids does have the capacity in the oncology ward to receive more than 10 to 15 total patients and remains in “active conversation” with medical officials in Poland about the possibility.
Aman Lara has also launched a fundraising campaign, hoping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for additional flights.
“I think this is probably one of the most complex logistical challenges we have faced so far at SickKids. As you can imagine, you have to, on the one hand, identify patients and families who can travel to Toronto. At the same time, in parallel you have to make sure that we have a transport mechanism for this patient from Poland, to the airport to Toronto and we have to have immigration papers in place for the family to enter Canada,” Cohn told reporters. at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “In addition, we have to ensure that we work with our community partners to ensure that once the families are here, in addition to the medical care we provide here at SickKids, we have the opportunity to provide support. for families within communities and all of this is happening in the context of many, many patients and families crossing the border from Ukraine to Poland.”
Nearly 3 million people have left Ukraine
The United Nations estimates that about 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine since the war broke out, many of them crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Cohn described efforts to bring war-displaced patients to Canada as “very fluid,” noting that sometimes it changed “hourly.”
But he said the hospital was committed to doing what it could to help in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and had also reached out to other Canadian children’s hospitals with oncology wards.
“It’s inconceivable for us to even begin to think about what these families and children have gone through,” Cohn said.
Cohn said SickKids officials expect to receive “little documentation” about the patient he will treat but may not have a complete medical history, given the circumstances.
He said it was highly likely that patients and their families would need other support after being forced to leave their country amid the persistent Russian offensive.
“We definitely have a long term view of how we support children and families, not just for the first few weeks until we know how to care for (them) and how to continue treatment but really at a longer and longer phase. because some of these treatments also require weeks and months of treatment,” he said.
Last week, a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol was hit by Russian air strikes. Ukrainian officials said that 17 people were injured in the attack.
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