Ukraine: refugee girl, 7, returns to warzone in Kyiv for dental care due to NHS backlog causing lengthy wait

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The girl’s mother said she “couldn’t wait” months for treatment because of the “terrible” pain she was in.

A seven-year-old refugee has been forced to return to war-torn Ukraine to urgently have her teeth removed after the NHS said it would be months before she could receive dental treatment.

Lisa, who has been living in Aberdeenshire in Scotland since September, urgently needed teeth removed under general anaesthetic -but NHS Scotland told mother Oksana Martirosova that it would be four months before she could be seen to due to lengthy waiting lists and backlogs. Dentists said in the meantime, Ms Martirosova should give her daugher painkillers and antibiotics.

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However, Lisa’s pain was so “terrible” that Ms Martirosova knew she simply “couldn’t wait several months on antibiotics” - especially when she began to get stomach aches from the amount of medicine she was taking. Describing her ordeal to the Press & Journal, the mother said: “[Lisa] was really afraid and trembling, and every day I had to give her painkillers.”

So despite the ongoing war, Ms Martirosova returned with Lisa to Kyiv so she could be treated. The pair first took a flight to Poland before catching a 15-hour bus into the capital - with the journey becoming even more traumatic when an electrical substation near their old family home was bombed by Russian forces. Ms Martirosova said the sound reminded her of “the terrible day of the invasion.”

Speaking on the long wait for treatment, Ms Martirosova remarked: “In our country, this would be an emergency and you would go to the hospital the same day or the next day, not after several months. It is crazy because this can lead to very difficult problems. I don’t know how people with small children live with this.” She added that “the doctors are good” in the UK, but the queues are “bad”.

Yesterday, Ukrainians gathered in Kyiv on the anniversary of the Mariupol Theatre Airstrike. Credit: Getty ImagesYesterday, Ukrainians gathered in Kyiv on the anniversary of the Mariupol Theatre Airstrike. Credit: Getty Images
Yesterday, Ukrainians gathered in Kyiv on the anniversary of the Mariupol Theatre Airstrike. Credit: Getty Images

Scotland, like the rest of the UK, is currently suffering a backlog in many of its vital healthcare sectors - and the NHS dentistry waiting list is no different.

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Labour MSP Michael Marra, who helped Ms Martirosova and her family obtain visas for the UK last year, insisted that the blame lies with Health Secretary and current SNP leadership candidate Humza Yousaf.

Marra said: “Humza Yousaf’s disastrous stewardship of the NHS has created a desperate situation for far too many. It is simply astounding that refugees have had to return to a war-torn country for medical treatment.”

He slammed “astronomical wait times” which have forced people “to the extremes” to get the treatment they “urgently need.” The MSP continued: “This case may be unusual but every week we hear more and more stories of people pushed to the brink to get the treatment they need.

“Mr Yousaf’s abysmal track record will follow him wherever he goes next. He has wreaked havoc on every post he has held in government.” Then, in a reference to Yousaf’s SNP leadership candidacy, Marra added: “He cannot be allowed to fail upwards and wreak havoc on the entire country.”

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Meanwhile, the British Dental Association (BDA) said Ms Martirosova and her daughter Lisa’s situation highlights the scale of the issues dentists are facing. Robert Donald, chair of the BDA’s Scottish Council, commented: “It reflects the depth of the crisis facing NHS dentistry in Scotland, that patients are choosing to head back into a warzone to access care.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The health and welfare of all displaced Ukrainians remains a priority. However, the challenges the NHS is facing are not unique to Scotland and are being felt across the rest of the UK.

“The Scottish Government remains focused on supporting services to address and alleviate these pressures and we are working to clear the backlog of planned care appointments caused by the pandemic.”

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