Iryna Rybakova, communication manager TI Ukraine
ON THE EVE of Medical Worker Day, President Petro Poroshenko announced that battlefield medicine will be fully adapted to the standards of NATO. On this occasion, he did not forget to advertise new evacuation vehicles the manufacture of which was launched by the Bogdan Corporation. As known, the Head of State is a founder of the corporation, and, until recently, had been its co-owner. Poroshenko said that ‘now, medical aid at the battlefield is provided within the so-called platinum ten minutes…Fortunately, the casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) is performed by the newly adapted ambulance vehicles.’
The Platinum Ten is the first ten minutes after being wounded; this 10-minute interval is crucial for life saving. Military doctors should arrive at the scene and initiate emergency medical aid within as few as 10 minutes.
Do the military share the President’s enthusiasm?
‘The vehicle looks like a heavy-duty one, but it was not armour-plated, therefore could be easily penetrated. The truck “behaved” properly in the forest, anyway it lodged in the sand. Not to mention that there has not been raining yet! Moreover, the passenger weight limit is 350 kg which goes just for a few people wearing a bulletproof vest and an assault rifle,’ anonymously shared her first impressions one of the military doctors of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, whose crew was presented with two trucks on Medical Worker Day.
This statement could be supported with the relevant investigation of the Independent Defence Anti-corruption Committee (NAKO, which is a joint initiative of Transparency International Defence and Security (UK) and Transparency International Ukraine) on medical procurement at the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. An analytical report on medical procurement is to be published shortly. It is based on a deep interview with public officials, volunteers and international experts.
According to the investigation, the carrying capacity of new trucks is, in fact, not high enough and equals to 1,000 kg. The experts have summed up the weight of a “module” or a truck body (600 kg), an approximate weight of 6-7 passengers (this includes a driver, military convoy, two doctors and the three wounded), as well as medical equipment, and assumed that the vehicle could often be overloaded. Consequently, it might require regular maintenance.
During the interview one of the experts informed NAKO’s analysts that the vehicles were being tested for two weeks only. The trucks operating on a snowy or icy surface were not tested at all. The vehicles’ clearance is equal to 20 cm only, which is legally allowed minimum for vehicles designated for the off-road driving, and that could not be enough. Nevertheless, a report of the Deputy to the Minister of Defence on testing results claimed that ‘the evacuation truck Bogdan-2251 allows to perform the tasks assigned when being operated at any road type and in condition of a seasonal off-road driving’.
Manufacturing these vehicles requires 32,000 US Dollars from the state budget. According to the respondents to NAKO, this price is too high for a Chinese-made chassis based vehicle, in addition to a simple mechanic module.
So why exactly Bogdan Corporation was appointed as a manufacturer of evacuation transport?
In 2014, when Ukraine faced an urgent need for sanitary transportation vehicles, the evacuation of the wounded was widely performed by the so-called uazik-tablettes (the auto vehicles manufactured by the Ulianovsk Automobile Plant (Ulianovskii avtomobilnyi zavod)). They were breaking down on a regular basis, and their usage was a temporary measure to take. Then the Ministry of Defence held meetings with potential suppliers of military medical vehicles among which were: Private Enterprise BIUIK, Research and Manufacture Company KRAS, Diatech-Ukraine and Praktika. Anyway, the government has chosen Bogdan Corporation. Why?
Based on the unofficial notifications from the Ministry of Defence and several manufactures, no one else agreed to launch new manufacture. It is difficult to state whether this piece of information is true or false, considering that the procedure of procurement with vehicles is carried out through a state defence order. This is mostly inaccessible for civic society, thus implementation of any control or supervision during negotiations is hardly possible. One might only guess how the potential manufacturers were estimated.
So, it is what it is: the vehicles are expensive and do not meet the needs, but are being manufactured in Ukraine. Moreover, the necessity for sanitary transport to evacuate the wounded under fire remains unfulfilled.
In this regard, previous investigation of NAKO mentions the amount of international financial aid provided (hundreds of millions of US Dollars) in connection with the armed conflict in Donbass. In the framework of this aid, five HMMWV M1152 Burtek B4731 Ambulance module vehicles, which were not armour-plated as well (while the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine claims the opposite), have been given to the country. The USA promise to give 40 more sanitary vehicles to the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. Meanwhile, according to the information obtained from several respondents, the ministry has made no appropriate requests to the donor-countries concerning the evacuation vehicles. Literally, the partners have just figured out Ukraine’s needs as the typical ones for a country having an armed conflict.
Nevertheless, Ukraine still has an opportunity to obtain the complementary amount of sanitary vehicles, specifically the armour-plated ones, as a part of international aid. What Ukraine should to do is to cooperate with the international donors more actively and specify its needs accurately.
As for manufacturing of the sanitary vehicles by the former-corporation of the President, one should hope that the Bogdan Corporation will consider and follow the reasonable queries of regular military doctors who are yet afraid to decry the vehicles freely. The war sets forth other requirements to medical transport which shall not be neglected in order to save people’s lives.