A team of volunteers from London Ambulance Service (LAS) set off for Poland today (Monday), driving 10 reconditioned ambulances filled with medical supplies, which will be donated to a charity helping to bolster humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
Shortly after 7 am, the team of 26 LAS volunteers set off from a foggy industrial estate in Rainham to drive more than 1,100 miles over three days to Przemysl, Poland, where ambulances will be handed over to the Medical Aid Ukraine charity.
The 10 vehicles are former LAS ambulances decommissioned from use in London but have now been rapidly refurbished by the Service’s fleet team to make them suitable to donate to Ukraine.
The ambulances are filled with donated medical equipment from LAS and several other NHS bodies and organisations in London. Supplies include ventilators, syringe pumps, tourniquets, wound dressings, blizzard blankets and personal protective equipment (PPE).
The convoy was waved off by London Ambulance Service’s chief executive Daniel Elkeles, who thanked the staff for volunteering and wished them a safe journey. He said: ‘Staff and volunteers from across London Ambulance Service have been moved by the scenes of terrible suffering in Ukraine over the past few weeks.’
‘Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people and our colleagues in the Ukrainian emergency services who care for their fellow citizens injured in challenging and distressing circumstances.’
‘I would like to pay tribute to our staff who have helped us restore the vehicles, source donations, pack the ambulances, and volunteer to drive them across the continent. This is a testament to our staff and volunteers’ commitment to caring for those in need. I am truly proud of the teams involved and that London Ambulance Service has been able to make this donation to the people of Ukraine.’
When the convoy of 10 ambulances and two support vehicles arrives in Przemysl on Wednesday, the Polish Ambulance Service will receive the ambulances and supplies. The Ukraine Ambulance Service will then collect the ambulances with Medical Aid Ukraine volunteers and drive them to Ukraine.
Eva Bartoskova, senior sector clinical lead at LAS, has been instrumental in organising the mission and is one of the volunteers driving the convoy of ambulances and supplies across Poland. Speaking ahead of the journey, Eva said: ‘My family’s kindness inspired me to offer their home to Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic over the past few weeks.’
‘Being so far away in London, I wanted to find still a way to make a difference, no matter how small, to help the people of Ukraine during these challenging times.’
Paramedic Erica Greene’s thoughts were with colleagues in Ukraine’s ambulance service. ‘When something bad happens, ambulance services are the ones who respond. I cannot imagine what it is like for them at the moment.’
The war has become even more accurate for Erica through correspondence with a 25-year-old Ukrainian from Lviv called Viktoria, whose visa application Erica is sponsoring.‘She is sending me videos of the bombing. She must be so scared of having to come to another country. She knows where I will be, and we hope she can meet up with me in Poland,’ she added.
Operational Duty manager Charlotte Coutts spent much of yesterday’s Mother’s Day reflecting on the situation in Ukraine ahead of today’s departure. ‘It’s horrific what we are seeing. As a mother of four children, I would not wish any child to go through that, and I cuddled them particularly hard yesterday. I will miss them so much, but I knew I had to do something to help, and they are very supportive.’