Story #93. How the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital Operates During the Full-Scale War

May 29, 2023
The Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital (PFVMH) is a group of civilian volunteer medics and support staff who provide medical assistance at the front in Ukraine. #UkraineWorldTestimony

The organization began its work in 2014, after the start of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. With the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the hospital's geographical scope expanded.

PFVMH President and co-founder Gennadiy Druzenko told UkraineWorld that the hospital's volunteers are people with a high drive for service and self-realization. They are people who expect the most of themselves and the world.

Unlike many other units, PFVMH volunteers are professional medics. 95% of the Hospital's volunteers work for free. The unit's leadership provides financial assistance only to those who have been unable to keep their main jobs because of their time at the front. Unfortunately, there are such cases.

"Instead of a rigid hierarchy, we advocate coordination in our work, solidarity instead of subordination, and service instead of earning money. In a certain sense, we are the exact opposite of the Wagner Group," Druzenko suggests. During the full-scale war, the PFVMH has specialized in the pre-hospital stage of medical care. The Hospital's volunteers, located 3-5 kilometers from the battlefield, work side by side with military medics to stabilize the wounded so they can be brought to hospitals alive. In particular, the PFVMH staff provides emergency life support to critically wounded soldiers all the way to the hospital.

"We help everyone. A wounded soldier is no different from a wounded civilian. When you take off their uniforms, soldiers and civilians look exactly the same," Druzenko explains.

A year ago, when the Hospital's volunteers were working in Bakhmut, most of their patients were civilians who had been hit by Russian fire. There were almost no local doctors left in the town, so people came to volunteers. Today, 99 percent of PFVMH patients are wounded and ill soldiers.

Between May 2022 and April 2023, PFVMH provided assistance to 17,604 people, Druzenko says. This does not include those people whose names and diagnoses were not possible to record. According to Druzenko's estimates, at least one in ten of Ukraine's wounded soldiers had been taken care of by the Hospital's medics at some stage of their medical treatment.

On average, PFVMH medics save about 1500 people every month. However, in recent months, the number of wounded has gone through the roof, ranging from 2,500 to 3,000 people a month. There Hospital has about 80 personnel, half of whom are medics, and the rest of whom are support staff like drivers, security guards, cooks, a press officer, an administrator, and so on. "Unfortunately, the war is not a planned surgery, and the flow of wounded does not stop here," says Druzenko. "To prevent our medics from simply falling dead of exhaustion, we have set up a schedule where, after working for one day, our doctors rest the next day. Overall, it is a complex system that requires readiness to evacuate and treat the wounded round the clock."

The first main problem PFVMH faces in its work is funding. According to Gennadiy Druzenko, the Hospital needs about $100,000 a month to maintain its ambulances, fuel the tanks and buy medical supplies, food, and other essentials. They somehow keep finding the money, but the organization has no stable sources of funding.

The second big challenge for PFVMH is ensuring it has enough medics. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, many specialists have left Ukraine, others joined the Armed Forces. In addition, some managers are not ready to let their employees go to the front while leaving their main jobs waiting for them.

Every month, the Hospital announces a call for medics for a one-month rotation at the front. To join the PFVMH, volunteers need to fill out a registration form on the organization's website. The Hospital's top needs are emergency doctors like anesthesiologists, traumatologists, surgeons, operating nurses, and paramedics.

Druzenko recalls two stories that have served as particular motivation for the organization's volunteers to work and believe in miracles.

In June 2022, four children were playing in a yard in Pryvilla, small village near Lysychansk when the spot was struck by Russian Grad rockets, killing two boys on the spot. The two surviving girls were brought by PFVMH medics to Bakhmut hospital. Unfortunately, the oldest girl died there. The yonger was brought to the Mechnikov Hospital in Dnipro. Fotunately, younger sister survived despite her extremely serious condition. The Dnipro doctors told the PFVMH team that they had performed a real miracle, as by all indications, she would not have been expected to survive. It was recognition from one of the best and most experienced Ukrainian medical facilities.

The second case was with a soldier in the Sloviansk area. During a very difficult evacuation, the soldier's heart stopped four times, but the Hospital's doctors managed to restart it each time. When the soldier finally came to, he mentioned that that day happened to be his birthday. As he was being taken away after being stabilized, someone even brought a small cake into the ambulance.

"No matter how hard it is for us, when you remember these things, you find the strength to keep going and crawl on," Druzenko concludes.

You can support the PFVMH financially by following these details:

1. PayPal -

2. Beneficiary: Mykola Pyrogov FVMH Charity

Legal address: 11 Avtozavodska St., apt. 108, Kyiv 04074 Ukraine

IBAN: UA033005280000026001455015588

Beneficiary's bank: OTP BANK JSC

43 Zhylyanska Str., Kyiv, 01033


Olha Tatokhina
Journalist at UkraineWorld