When Dr. Peter Derkach travelled to Ukraine in the fall of 2019 on a teaching trip, he didn’t expect to feel so nostalgic. Despite his familial ties to his home country, Dr. Derkach found himself feeling reminiscent about West Park when arriving at a military rehabilitation hospital ushering in an era of modernization.
As if travelling back in time, Dr. Derkach was greeted by a newly built hospital in the countryside surrounded by greenery and small cottages, resembling the old TTC cars West Park used to use as patient housing when it served as a tuberculosis sanatorium. The leafy landscaping, tiny cottages, and familiar clinical wings had Dr. Derkach feeling right at home – or back at work.
After landing in Ukraine with two other West Park clinicians - nurse Svitlana Reitar and physiotherapist Lisa Da Cunha - Dr. Derkach spent five days teaching about a multidisciplinary approach to patient care in an effort help bring Ukraine’s healthcare system into the 21st century.
“Modernization is the name of the game for Ukraine right now,” says Dr. Derkach. “They want to catch up to international standards and they’re eager to learn from more advanced healthcare systems, like Canada’s.”
The contrast between the two healthcare systems is vast, with the current average lifespan of men in Ukraine 68, and women 77, compared to Canada’s average lifespans of 80 and 84, respectively. While the difference appears to be decades apart, Dr. Derkach is optimistic about the way Ukrainian health care is going.
“The hospital we went to only has four physiotherapists, and they just hired their first and only occupational therapist,” he says. “But they’re interested in learning about what rehab, nursing, and medical care is like in Canada.”
Part of the familiarity Dr. Derkach felt came from the services provided by what he considers a “sister hospital” to West Park. As a military rehab hospital, it had units for amputee rehabilitation, acquired brain injuries, and neurological ailments, as well as intensive care units for wounded soldiers.
The teaching excursion was organized by the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women (LUCW) for its Guardian Angel Ukraine project, which sets out to provide physical and psychological rehabilitation to Ukrainian soldiers and veterans.
The LUCW invited Dr. Derkach, Reitar, and Da Cunha to teach at the hospital about neurology, but the initiative turned into a multidisciplinary approach, aided by an occupational therapist, psychologist, and speech language pathologist, as well as a translator.
While there, Dr. Derkach was also asked to lecture at a Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv on Canadian health care, including information on West Park and its services. Currently, Dr. Derkach is working on fostering a teaching partnership with the military hospital to train their clinicians in a modern healthcare setting.
Rounding out a uniquely familiar and personal working trip, Dr. Derkach had another reminder of West Park, 30,000 feet in the air. A bad case of the flu broke out on his flight home, and when aircraft personnel asked for medical assistance, Dr. Derkach offered his services and was pleasantly surprised to see fellow West Park colleague, Dr. Mihaela Nicula, checking in on the medical situation.
West Park’s doctors and clinicians appear to be bringing our brand of exemplary care everywhere they go, overseas and in the sky, too.