On the afternoon of 6 September 2023, a missile hit a marketplace in Kostiantynivka, Ukraine. Ukraine, 2023. © MSF

Ukraine: 34 patients hospitalized after deadly attack on marketplace

After an explosion yesterday in a marketplace in Kostiantynivka, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been responding to urgent medical needs of people injured in the attack. At Kostiantynivka hospital, where MSF supports the Ministry of Health emergency department, 34 patients were admitted, with 15 of these classified as “red cases” requiring immediate lifesaving care.

“I was called urgently to the hospital. When we arrived, there were many wounded people in all the rooms and the corridor. Most were seriously injured – they had mine-explosive injuries and burns,” said IIya Bilokonov, MSF anesthesiologist working at Kostiantynivka hospital. “All trauma surgeons were working, all operating theatres were full. Unfortunately, attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure occurs often here.”

At the hospital, five patients were immediately transferred to the operating room for emergency surgery. MSF also transported four patients in critical condition from Kostiantynivka to Dnipro, to receive specialised treatment. One was a young woman who required mechanical ventilation support and continuous medical care due to a penetrating abdominal injury, chest trauma, pneumothorax and massive blood loss. The patients’ mother, Inna, said her daughter was working as a market seller when the attack occurred.

“I heard a rocket flying. I was thrown back by the blast wave. When I got up, I immediately ran to the market. I felt the danger in my heart,” says Inna. “She was lying between two broken cars – the cars were burning. I started screaming. Passers-by ran up and pulled my daughter out.”

Intense strikes and explosions in the town and surrounding suburbs of Kostyantynivka have become an almost daily reality. It lies about 20 kilometres west of the frontline сity of Bakhmut, an area that has proved a major flashpoint in the war. As the battle line encroached, the level of risk for people in Kostiantynivka and the surrounding areas has grown.

“After the attack yesterday in Kostiantynivka, at least 17 people are reported to have been killed in the blast, including a child. The hospital received more than 30 wounded patients, many of them in life-threatening conditions,” says MSF Project Medical Referent, Virginia Moneti.

“The MSF team worked together with the hospital staff in the emergency department. Patients were stabilised and those in need of more specialised care were quickly transferred from Kostiantynivka hospital with MSF ambulances. The situation is very challenging – hospitals and medical staff are working under difficult conditions,” continued Moneti.

Kostiantynivka hospital is one of the few functional healthcare facilities near the eastern frontlines.  
Due to numerous medical facilities in the neighbouring towns being either destroyed or closed and people in the area – including medical staff – having to flee, Kostiantynivka hospital now also services patients from across the district.

However, with the near constant shelling and sound of alarms, going to see the doctor has shifted from a routine necessity to a careful calculation of risk and resources. Many of the people who have remained in the vicinity are elderly living with chronic health conditions. To ensure continuity of care, MSF teams are running mobile clinics in villages close to Kostiantynivka, providing both physical and mental healthcare services.

As fighting grinds on in the Donetsk region, MSF teams continue to support the healthcare system – which are responding to the huge needs, under harsh conditions near the frontlines – by filling in the gaps that have been caused and aggravated by the war.