Twin Cities doctors use Zoom to help with medical care in Ukraine

During the course of the pandemic, we’ve all become quite accustomed to Zoom calls. But one placed in Oakdale on Thursday was far from usual.

"What you just saw today is doctors talking to doctors and what we focus on is the patients… We don’t talk about the politics," said Dr. Aaron Burnett, an Assistant Emergency Medical Director at Regions and the EMS Medical Director for the St. Paul Fire Department.

"We don’t talk about anything other than the sickness and the suffering because that’s universal," Dr. Burnett told FOX 9. "Any doctor anywhere in the world knows what that looks like."

On the screen, at the HealthPartners EMS training facility, were doctors from Ukraine. And from the other side of the planet, from a war zone, they were asking for help.

"It’s hard to imagine what they’re going through right now," said Dr. Kari Haley, also an Assistant Emergency Medical Director at Regions. "And just knowing that they’re looking to us as experts and looking to us to help them is really just an honor."

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, St. Paul Fire Paramedic Sam Severtsgaard went there to help out.  Now more than two months later, more of the country’s doctors are needed, and volunteering, to treat the wounded, not just the soldiers, but also many civilians.

But those doctors, be it family practice or podiatrists or dentists, don’t have emergency medical training and those in Ukraine who can teach them are busy. So Severtsgaard reached out to his friends at HealthPartners and Regions to help.

"If you’re out in the middle of a field and you need to save someone’s life, what are the things that are important, how can we do that with very minimal tools and that’s something as EMS physicians and training that we have a lot of expertise in," Dr. Haley said.

The first Zoom call was simply to figure out what the Ukrainian needs are. They decided that the HealthPartners EMS doctors would make simple training videos that can be translated and shown to Ukrainian doctors. They’ll also continue routine live webinars.

They decided that all training would focus on what they labeled "the first 100 kilometers," which is getting people to a hospital. They also learned that there’s a shortage of medical supplies, so any training would have to take that into account.

"Breathing tubes, chest tubes, blood products… all the stuff that I would think of having access to in an emergency room and a stabilization room, they just have their hands and stethoscope, and maybe they can start an IV," said Dr. Bjorn Peterson, also an Assistant Emergency Medical Director at Regions. "But we have to figure out how do we adapt our trauma expertise here into a setting where we really don’t have all the gadgets and tools and things that we’re used to dealing with."