On the occasion of the 5th German – East European & CIS Health Forum in Berlin, experts from Ukraine described the state of the health system and called for German support
How does the Ukrainian health system function under war conditions and how can aid for reconstruction be organised efficiently? These two questions shaped the 5th German – East European & CIS Health Forum, jointly organised by the German Eastern Business Association and the GHA – German Health Alliance in Berlin. In addition to numerous experts from the German and Ukrainian health sectors, the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Health, Oleksii Iaremenko, also travelled to Berlin.
Iaremenko described the situation on the ground and the government’s long-term reconstruction plans to the approximately 70 participants. Among other things, he reported on 1077 health care facilities that had suffered war damage so far. 144 hospitals had been completely destroyed. The districts of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Donetsk, Mykolaiv and Charkiv in particular had been badly affected by missile attacks. The horror of the Russian aggression also included 422 children killed, 28 doctors and nurses killed and 14 million Ukrainians displaced. Nevertheless, Iaremenko said, it had been possible to keep the state health system largely stable. More than 9,000 tonnes of aid from over 60 countries had contributed to this, he said. The international aid is now centrally coordinated by the state health ministry, and internet portals such as MedData make the required aid supplies transparent.
In his keynote speech, State Secretary Thomas Steffen promised Ukraine the Federal Government’s active support in close coordination with German companies and aid organisations. “The German government wants Ukraine to emerge stronger from this war,” he said. “We now have to manage two things at the same time: Fight the Corona virus and support Ukraine,” Steffen said. Germany is also committed here with the chairmanship of the G7 countries to organise international aid for Ukraine for as long as it needs it, she said.
In their opening speeches, German Eastern Business Association Director Michael Harms, GHA Chairman Roland Göhde and Martina Unseld, spokesperson of the joint working group on the health sector of the Ost-Ausschuss and GHA, underlined the great willingness of the German economy to promote reconstruction in Ukraine and especially in the health sector. “We are all confronted with this catastrophe in Ukraine, we have to stand together and support the weaker ones”, Martina Unseld emphasised. Michael Harms promoted the best possible integration of the private sector in the reconstruction process through efficient structures, and thanked PwC for providing the premises as well as colleagues from the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, AHK Ukraine, the Polish Investment and Trade Agency PAIH, the medical technology association Spectaris and the law firm Arzinger Ukraine for their support in organising the conference. Roland Göhde emphasised that the flagship event was held for the fifth time as an official side event for Eastern Europe within the framework of the World Health Summit. In view of the many international crises, such as the war, the related food and energy crisis and the Corona pandemic, joining forces is more important than ever, he said.
Panel discussions on deepening cooperation
The conference took place under the motto “Paradigm Shift for the Health Sector? Recovery Plans for Ukraine and Further Development of the Health Infrastructure in Eastern Europe”. After the introductory speeches, approaches for cooperation were deepened in two panel discussions. In September, a working group of the German health sector had presented proposals for the reconstruction of the health sector, which are contained in the East Committee dossier “Rebuild Ukraine” and are available for download here.
In the first discussion panel, moderated by Sergey Lisnitschenko from the German-Ukrainian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, four experts described how their organisations dealt with the war situation and the path from acute emergency aid to long-term reconstruction strategies. Irmgard Buchkremer-Ratzmann from the German aid organisation action medeor described the emergency aid for Ukraine, which had already begun two days after the start of the war with a first aid transport. In the meantime, 200 institutions in Ukraine have been supplied with medical aid. Care is taken to ensure that only goods are delivered that are in acute short supply and cannot be provided in the country itself. Action medeor works closely with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health on coordination and uses its own portal, Medical Bridge, to collect requests from Ukrainian institutions.
Like all speakers from Ukraine, Ksenia Velychko from the Ukrainian pharmaceutical company Darnitsa Group thanked the German partners for their support in difficult times. Just a few days ago, she had been sitting in a bunker for seven hours with her little daughter when Kyiv was being bombarded with Russian missiles. Despite the war, her company has been able to maintain production without interruption. “If we manage to continue working under missile fire, then we will be a very reliable partner for Europe even in peacetime,” Velychko said.
Yevgeniya Piddubna from JSC Farmak explained how the company found itself in a dramatic situation in the first days of the war. At that time, Ukrainian defenders of Kyiv were at the site of the central warehouse to repel Russian attacks. For days, they were unable to reach the warehouse, only to discover that the building had been destroyed in the fighting. It took 14 days before production could resume on a smaller scale. In the meantime, logistics have been decentralised, new warehouses have been set up all over the country and production is back to pre-war levels.
Yevgeniya Ocheretko, who advises companies in the life sciences and healthcare sector in particular on legal issues for Arzinger Ukraine, pointed out that the Ukrainian government had to make many quick decisions in the war situation to ensure the country’s survival. Nevertheless, the government is also looking at the longer term and is working on aligning the legal framework with EU standards.
Andrii Shapovalov, Managing Director of the German company B Braun in Ukraine, was broadcast live from Kyiv and reported that the company had meanwhile organised further training for 600 nurses. Even if further predictions on the course of the war are difficult, the company wants to continue to actively participate in the reconstruction process in Ukraine. Education and training strategies, skills development and digitalisation will play an important role.
Support from the Federal Government
How does the Federal Government support companies both in exploring new markets and when loss events and serious political risks occur? Between the two health panels, experts Matthias Koster of PwC and Igot Sufraga of Euler Hermes offered concise expert input on this topic into the prospects for investment and export credit guarantees by the Federal Republic of Germany for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
In the course of the pandemic, German companies from the health sector established themselves as “trusted advisors” for governments as well as governmental and private institutions in the entire Eastern European region due to their strong presence throughout Eastern Europe. Key success factors are considered to be the good networking in the region, the growing private sector, the progress in digitalisation as well as the active participation in acute care during the pandemic.
The second panel at the Health Forum, moderated by Karolina Król-Skowyrska from PAIH, was dedicated to the following questions: How are companies coping with the diverse challenges in the dynamic markets of Eastern Europe? How do they see the further development of the health sector in the region?
Dr. Bernt Bieber, Senior Vice President Direct Export Sales at Siemens Healthineers, reported on challenges but also approaches to solutions in the areas of financing and PPP projects. Here, a holistic approach is particularly important in order to be able to provide smaller and poorer countries with state-of-the-art technologies. Access to good health care is crucial for economic recovery and a good education system. An efficient health care system can avert migration and strengthen skills development. A prime example of digital learning and knowledge exchange is a virtual tumour board project in cooperation with GIZ.
View on Uzbekistan and Poland
How do you bring health professionals to local markets? Dr Alexei Sverdlov, CEO of Opasca, which has a strong foothold in the digitalisation of clinical processes, spoke about this question. Currently, the company’s focus is on modernising the healthcare system in Central Asia. As a positive experience from the pandemic period, Swerdlow reported on an OPASCA/GIZ project to provide and commission a mobile Covid laboratory in Uzbekistan.
Marion Lükemann, Head of the Office of HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY at Germany Trade & Invest, reported on planned activities with Uzbekistan, including a delegation trip in 2023. Uzbekistan is regarded by the World Health Organisation as a model country for the implementation of health reforms, and the number of health facilities there has doubled in recent years. In Germany’s neighbourhood, Poland in particular is an attractive and growing market. The government there is working on improved access to primary care, which is financed by the EU Cohesion Fund.
Aleksander Kotulecki from Technomex reported from a Polish company perspective. The company offers solutions for rehabilitation centres and is strongly export-driven. About 40 percent of its exports go to the EU, but projects are also implemented in Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The company has been very active in supporting its Ukrainian partners, but the current challenge is that there are no opportunities to invite partners from Ukraine to Poland for knowledge transfer. In addition, there are currently high logistics and energy costs.
The panel was rounded off by Dr Bernhard Braune, Head of the Global Health Policy and Financing Division at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). When it comes to global health, it is very important to understand the political framework conditions, also with regard to support for Ukraine. Multilateral cooperation with UN organisations is also central. Bernhard Braune’s presentation focused on hospital partnerships in Ukraine. Charité and university hospitals are involved. Expansion of activities with a focus on mental health and first aid medicines is planned.
All participants stressed the importance of further intensifying exchange and cooperation in the health sector. The joint OA/GHA working group provides the appropriate framework for this – until the next Health Forum at the World Health Summit.
translated by GHA, written by
Andreas Metz, Petya Hristova,
Ost-Ausschuss der Deutschen Wirtschaft