Irish medics training Ukrainians on frontline to perform emergency care

The trauma project was commenced at UCD’s Centre for Emergency Medical Science in response to a request from the Ukrainian authorities

A team of Irish medics has travelled to Ukraine to train its military personnel in the skills needed to save lives when their colleagues are wounded fighting Russian troops. The Irish Times understands a number of Ukrainian personnel came from the frontline to undertake the training and were resuming their positions on the battlefield immediately after.

Cathal Berry TD (Ind), who is a qualified doctor and former member of the Defence Forces’ Army Ranger Wing, is part of the Irish group, which has been in Ukraine for the last week, including spending some time in Kyiv.

During his time in the Defence Forces, Dr Berry served in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East, leading the Army Ranger Wing when it was deployed to Chad in 2008.

The seven-strong Irish medical team in Ukraine has trained over 100 personnel over the last week, with the key focus on procedures to counteract the kind of haemorrhaging from wounds sustained in combat. Significant haemorrhaging causes more than one third of combat deaths and about 80 per cent of preventable deaths on the battlefield.


The Irish initiative, which is called the Ukraine Trauma Project, has now resulted in three visits to Ukraine by Irish medical personnel to offer the training, including one earlier this year and another last November, in different parts of the country.

The trauma project was commenced at UCD’s Centre for Emergency Medical Science (CEMS) in response to a request from the Ukrainian authorities. Prof Gerard Bury, director of CEMS, has been leading the initiative with UCD colleague, Prof Chris Fitzpatrick, who has also organised fundraising events in Ireland.

As well as training Ukrainian emergency services in advanced trauma care tailored towards combat situations, it has also been providing essential drugs and equipment to support emergency care in Ukraine.

The Irish medics have been teaching trainees in Ukraine how to use tranexamic acid (TXA) – a medicine to control heavy bleeding – in patients suffering such severe blood loss that it cannot be put into their veins. The method involves using a special kit to drill into the upper arm or leg and insert a needle through which TXA can be administered directly into the bone, along with fluids and other drugs that a critically injured patient may need.

Some of the training has also focused on treating chemical, radiological and other burns. The Irish medics previously delivered kits to their Ukrainian colleagues that each cost about €1,000 and contain TXA, a drill to access the bone and needles for four patients.

This week Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia was “trying indiscriminately to destroy everything it can reach. We are preparing for terrorist attacks on energy infrastructure. This year we will not only defend ourselves, but also respond.”

Russian missile and drone attacks last winter badly damaged Ukraine’s power grid and left many Ukrainians without heat, light and water supply for long periods during the coldest and darkest months of the year. Western states have bolstered Ukraine’s air defences with new launchers and ammunition since then and provided more long-range missiles that can strike Russian positions and arms and fuel depots deep inside occupied territory.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times