Scale of Ukraine war casualties ‘horrific’ – doctor

A highly experienced Australian surgeon says the scale of casualties he’s seen in the Ukraine conflict eclipses anything he’s seen in six warzones over the past three decades.

Cardiothoracic and trauma specialist Craig Jurisevic volunteered for surgical duties in Ukraine between August and October 2022, and February and May 2023.

“Ukraine is nothing like I’ve experienced before. Even Afghanistan and Kosovo at the front line was horrific as well,” Dr Jurisevic explained.

“But the scale, the number of casualties in severity is nothing like anything that’s been since World War Two.”

He said the work of highly skilled medics, improved communications and transport mean more critically injured soldiers are making it back to Ukraine’s field hospitals about one kilometre from the front line.

“Soldiers who would have died in Korea or Vietnam are actually surviving to make to the next level of care,” Dr Jurisevic said

“So we’re being presented with these patients who are basically in pieces and still alive, many of whom we can’t do anything for.”

Aus trauma specialist shares knowledge with Kiwi medics Video3:05

Craig Jurisevic has twice risked his life to work on the front line in Ukraine. (Source: 1News)

He said the front line hospitals are often short-staffed with limited supplies, and doctors have to accept everyone can’t be saved.

“You have to accept that, you have to be pragmatic in those situations,” Dr Jurisevic said. “You need to focus all your efforts on those you think you can save and that keeps you focussed.”

Dr Jurisevic said new techniques and procedures that help stem massive blood loss are helping patients with catastrophic injuries like the loss of limbs.

But the trauma and injury inflicted on soldiers and innocent victims alike will take Ukraine years to recover from, he said.

Craig Jurisevic speaks in Wellington
Craig Jurisevic speaks in Wellington (Source: 1News)

Dr Jurisevic said there is widespread post-traumatic stress disorder and it’s going to be a difficult path ahead for a massive number of men and women to cope with.

The surgeon travelled to Wellington to address more than 300 health workers involved in emergency and trauma care at the National Trauma Symposium last month. He received a standing ovation.

Dr Jurisevic said armed conflict is a “sign of a failure of leadership”.

“Having been across five or six conflicts now, if you take egotistical men out of the equation you probably wouldn’t have as many wars.”

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