A new beginning in Romania for a Ukrainian doctor

The doctor Irina Sayed used to consult tens of patients every day in Ukraine. Now she is doing the same thing in Romania, for the Ukrainian refugees who need medical care.

Miruna Haican
Ukrainian doctor in Romania
UNICEF/Adrian Holerga
09 August 2022

“Today we are going to a new center where we will meet our Ukrainians, who need medical services, or a diagnosis and a special treatment.” says Irina Sayed M.D. while arranging in her doctor’s bag all the boxes of supplements and medicines for her Ukrainian patients, that she is about to examine. Irina is Ukrainian too and she also fled the war with her children.

In Ukraine, Irina used to work as a sonologist. Now she is continuing her work as a volunteer with the help of the Foundation Social Innovations Queen Mary, and with the support of UNICEF in Romania.

“It was a difficult journey because it was stressful. God forbid anyone should become a refugee”, recounts Irina about her coming to Romania. Though she’s gone through difficult moments, she is grateful for all the support she received from the Romanians she crossed paths with so far.

 “Indeed, we used to believe that Ukrainians are kind, but it seems other people are even kinder. These are the Romanians. For the way they greeted and continue to welcome us. They help us and treat us well, they paid attention to everybody, the elderly, youth, new-born, pregnant women.”, she adds.

It's been good for her, personally, because she can use her knowledge and because she feels valued. But also because, in this way, she can also help further, consulting Ukrainian patients, who need specialized treatments, the establishment of a diagnosis, or just a kind word.

Meanwhile, she has integrated very well in the mobile medical team where she is now a health mediator alongside a Romanian nurse, internists, emergency physicians and one pediatrician. Together with the Romanian staff, Irina visits refugee centers every day, including Blue Dot UNICEF centers, where refugee children from Ukraine and their families receive support and counselling.

Ukrainian refugees in Romania
UNICEF/Adrian Holerga
A mother from Ukraine and her child receive advice from a Romanian pediatrician, who is part of the mobile medical team of the Regina Maria Social Innovation Foundation.

„There have been many patients, I guess thousands, given that we see around 30 patients every day. We are working on the field every day, sometimes even during weekends. (…) Sometimes we had to call an ambulance, and I suppose this saved many lives. There have been patients with heart attacks, acute pain, blood pressure crises, high blood pressure.”, says Irina.

Before the medical team expanded and include the Romanian pediatrician, Irina dealt with children’s cases and examined Ukrainian children.

“I saw children too because I graduated from the Medicine University specializing in pediatrics, and the knowledge I gathered back then was very useful.”

When she is in the refugee centers, Irina gives the parents recommendations on routine immunization, so that all the Ukrainian children who live now in Romania could stay healthy.

During her experience as a volunteer, Irina noticed that certain refugees are reluctant to access medical services, because of language and cultural barriers, but also because of financial issues.

“If we go in and find out that the person has health issues beyond our team’s skills and an ambulance is needed, we call one... Or we refer them to specialists, to do tests... Sometimes it is not the right time for this, because the patient is apprehensive, may be in financial distress, maybe he/she doesn’t know the language… There may be many concerns. But we advise them to go, do their tests.”, relates Irina.

Ukrainian refugees in Romania
UNICEF/Adrian Holerga
Katerina and her daughter Victoria live now in a refugee center in Bucharest. The two went to a pediatric consultation, provided by a mobile medical team, supported by UNICEF in Romania.

Though she has adapted very well in Romania and already made many friends, Irina wants to go back to Ukraine with her family. She has three children, and two of them are living now with her in Romania, whilst the oldest daughter lives in Germany.

„I have a house, a wonderful job in Odessa, I live in a beautiful city on the coast of the Black Sea, and I dream about going back home. As we say in Odessa, it’s nice visiting, but being home is better. I dream about gathering all my family around a large table again, provided that my Romanian friends will visit me in Odessa. I made lots of friend in these four months. It seems funny to me how four months ago I didn’t know anybody here, and now they are like relatives.”, says Irina.

UNICEF in Romania supports the healthcare work carried out by the Foundation “Inovații Sociale Regina Maria” for the benefit of the Ukrainian refugee families who live currently in Romania. With the help of mobile medical teams, Ukrainian children and their families can receive free medical check-ups, and after that, the doctor can establish a correct diagnostic, prescribe the adequate treatment, or recommend detailed investigations, depending on each patient’s specific needs.