Roger Davis said that within 48 hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lux Med had announced the instant and free provision of healthcare services for Ukrainian refugees. Lux Med’s parent company, Bupa, had made available £6 million (33 million złotys) immediately for this end. By the end of April, Lux Med’s clinics had provided treatment to nearly 60,000 people.
“Bupa’s management board had decided that with Ukrainian hospitals under Russian bombardment, the company will do what it does best as health and insurance company. And so it announced on the second day of the invasion that Lux Med will be providing instant and free delivery of emergency health services to Ukrainian refugees in Poland,” said Mr Davis. “Bupa has made available the finance available from the top down to pay into the Lux Med Group Foundation – the support being made available immediately. As a result, over 1,100 refugees were being treated daily in Lux Med clinics across Poland.”
“Getting into Poland was not easy – women and children had in some cases been waiting for several days to get into Poland,” said Anna Rulkiewicz. “Many were wounded; there were frostbite cases. There was support at the border, where needed, from the charity PAH (Polish Humanitarian Action). Of our 20,000 employees of Lux Med in Poland, there was no one who had not opened their hearts to Ukrainian refugees. Families offered accommodation, we’re also offering employment to Ukrainian healthcare professionals.”
“We have three ongoing programmes – ambulatory care, hospital treatment and support with in professional development... All our hospitals are open to refugees, to treat them where necessary,” said Ms Rulkiewicz. “We are also offering the chance of professional development for Ukrainian healthcare workers – jobs in Poland for the short and long term. As many jobs as possible for medical personnel in Poland. We want to support doctors to work in Poland with nostrification of diplomas in Poland [nostrification being the process of granting recognition to a degree from a foreign university.] We hire, we train and we teach the Polish language. The possibility to work is very important. Many are crying when they think of home; work takes their mind off war, it gives them a salary, we are offering them the chance to stay if they want,” she said.
The Lux Med group has nearly 300 clinics and special refugee emergency centres, where Ukrainian refugees can walk in for free treatment. In Warsaw, there are two dedicated healthcare centres – in the Marriott – and at the Ptak Expo centre, and points for Ukrainian refugees at Warsaw Central railway station, and on ul. Wołoska 7; there are medical centres in Kraków and Wrocław; diagnostics are carried out across other hospitals in the group, or in other hospitals outside of the group. “We can see that the greatest needs for these patients is paediatric and psychiatric help,” said Ms Rulkiewicz.
Iñaki Ereño said: “Bupa provides medical services, health insurance and healthcare, hospitals, clinics. We operate as an insurer in over 170 countries, but in terms of full provision of medical services such as Lux Med, we are present in 13 countries. We will support Ukrainians wherever they are, to help them live longer, healthier, happier lives – that is our mission. We have extended our health insurance support for our clients in Ukraine; we will support them for as long as it takes. We are closing our business in Russia, cutting our ties with our former partners there, although this won’t be happening from day to day, so as not to harm patients there.
“This is a dramatic situation. We are shocked by what’s happening in Ukraine. Lux Med has been a part of Bupa since 2013 – our Polish colleagues have been amazing, remarkable, value-driven people. The leadership of Anna Rulkiewicz has been fundamental. We love and admire our colleagues in Poland. The reaction of our team has been incredible from the beginning. The commitment and energy of our team was outstanding – by Friday, the day after the invasion, we had opened our call centre; we could deal with calls from refugees from the outset. There were hundreds of calls on that very first day. Only big companies, with well-trained people, can react like this. This is why we came from London to be here in Warsaw; we love our colleagues, we are proud of them.
Roger Davis added: “As a husband, son, father, I am shocked by what’s happening. A heartfelt thank-you goes out to Poland. You have done a remarkable thing, taking in the best part of three million people – our heart goes out to them and our thanks go to you. It’s a great honour that Bupa and Lux Med can play a part. Anna had the whole thing under control and we are impressed by the speed with which she acted. Decisions were made quickly. There was no time to hold committee meetings – if you have crossed half a country to escape, you don’t want to be met by a committee – you want to be met by people who can help. We’re here for the long term. We are a big company, we own the company, we have no shareholders, and so we can reinvest what we make – we will be here in support of the Ukrainian refugees for as long as it takes. When President Biden flies out [context: the press conference was held the day after President Biden visited Poland], others fly out, people lose interest, but we’ll still be here.”
“At Ptak Expo – our ambulances, our people are standing ready, we coordinate our volunteers; a couple of thousand refugees have already passed through there. Our hospital in Gdańsk has bought and equipped an ambulance within days, which was picked up by a doctor from L’viv, and we will be sending a second one there. We are treating over a thousand patients daily – cancer patients, patients with other serious medical conditions, we pay for everything. I am very proud that we’re so heavily engaged. Because of my donors – Bupa reinvests profits into health, we can very heavily engage in providing support,” said Mr Davis.
Questions from the media included ones on the recruitment of Ukrainian doctors and nurses. “Medical personnel do have right to work in Poland, but only as an assistant, not to work independently, hence there is a need for a rapid nostrification process. Polish language skills are crucial if they want to be legalised to carry out the job in Poland – to assure work, we will help with training, getting the necessary documents to Izba Lekarska (Polish medical chamber). Many love their country and will want to go home as soon as they can; we’ll support those who want to stay here. Over 400 people have already applied to work to work for us; between 80 and 100 people will be taken on in our clinics by the end of April. Every day we get CVs,” said Ms Rulkiewicz. “Ukrainian doctors who decide to stay will be able to complete their medical specialisations in Poland. We’ll do what we can – we have our own residencies – we will be open to give these places to Ukrainian doctors,” she said.
“Some refugees managed to take with them all their health documents, but not all did. More people did take their papers, if not originals, then in electronic form. The Polish health ministry will help – but if a city, a hospital has been bombed, homes bombed, there are no papers. Such patients will need legal and administrative help, we have a lawyer; we can help the health personnel dealing with such cases,” said Ms Rulkiewicz.
How does Bupa’s support affect the business? “Our initial commitment was £6 million, but this is just the beginning,” said Mr Davis. “We’re here for the long run. We are a big company with big balance sheet, big P&L. We’re a long-term player.”
The medical centre for Ukrainian refugees at the Marriott Hotel in Warsaw takes up the third floor of the hotel. It is here that 250 patients a day are seen by general practitioners, paediatricians, gynaecologists and psychiatrists. Of the Ukrainian refugees being treating, about 80% are children, 15% women and 5% (mainly older) men. To put this into a wider perspective, at the moment, every tenth child that Lux Med is seeing in Warsaw is a Ukrainian refugee.