When traveling in the Ukraine, the State Department recommends purchasing medical evacuation insurance. Basic medical treatment is adequate, but if anything catastrophic happens, one is better off seeking treatment in another European country. If you stay in the Ukraine, you will need someone to bring you bandages, food, and other supplies while you are in the hospital. Payment is required up front. Luckily, travelers do not normally need to undergo brain surgery. If you do, you’re out of luck in the Ukraine. Neurosurgery, for the most part, doesn’t exist.
The documentary, The English Surgeon, follows Dr. Harry Marsh as he tries to make a small difference in treating brain tumors with Dr. Igor Kurilets in Kiev. Marsh visits a couple of times a year bringing a suitcase full of medical supplies no longer needed by the British National Health Service and ready to consult with long lines of patients free of charge. These patients have brain tumors considered inoperable and indeed, some of the tumors are untreatable…now. Marsh laments that if they were in any other European country, they would have received treatment much earlier in their diagnosis. But there are a few that are able to undergo the surgery for removal and Dr. Marsh is their last hope.
One patient is Marion, a poor farmer with a tumor that causes epilepsy. He is able to travel to Kiev and rent the room in the hospital through a collection at his local church. Dr. Marsh and Dr. Kurilets decide to go through with the operation. It is interesting to watch the resourcefulness of both doctors when it comes to hardware and medical supplies and how they manage the surgery without the facilities available in the UK. Of course, Marion is extremely brave to undergo a rare surgery when told by others it is impossible.
Last year, the government announced a massive overhaul of the health care system. Hopefully, the reforms will address the practice of neurosurgery in the country. Read more about Henry Marsh’s experience in the Ukraine here.