Substandard Medical Supplies on the Front Lines
Over 90% of the medical supplies used to treat Ukrainian military casualties are provided by non-governmental donors without any sort of standardized inspection or vetting. Well-meaning organizations and individuals around the world are trying to provide life-saving medical equipment quickly and in quantify; from any source they can. Therefore we are experiencing an epidemic of substandard medical supplies finding their way onto the battlefield. The result is needless death and suffering among wounded Ukrainian soldiers and civilians.
Given the nature of battlefield injuries, this problem is particularly highlighted in medical equipment used to treat immediate traumatic injuries. The sort of medical supplies carried by US Marines in our Individual First Aid Kits (IFAKs) were selected to stabilize a casualty enough to survive the “golden hour” during which they would hopefully be transported to definitive medical care. These simple supplies - chest seals, pressure dressings, and - perhaps most importantly - tourniquets are often the difference between a fraught ride to a field hospital and a body bag. And so . . . they have to work.
Lots of these medical tools we’re seeing in Ukraine simply don’t. For the inexperienced but well-meaning donor, it’s simple to go on Amazon and purchase an IFAK filled with supplies that appear to be legit, but are often so low-quality that they fail when needed. There is a reason that expert oversight bodies like the Committee for Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) and the European Resuscitation Council set standards for emergency medical equipment. This sort of robust standards culture is only in its infancy in Ukraine, with the Tourniquets Testing Center releasing a list of approved tourniquets.
In the meantime, it is up to donors to educate themselves on which medical supplies are likely to be useable and up to the Ukrainians to avoid issuing or accepting known substandard equipment. As we write this, the Ukrainian government is involved in a purge of poor-quality medical supplies across the armed forces. The least we can do is stop sending more problematic kit.
For most of the world, the Combat Applications Tourniquet (CAT) and SOF-Tactical Tourniquet-Wide (SOFTT-W) are examples of the gold standard. Because of this, they are widely counterfeited. Solutions for interested donors include: sourcing directly from the manufacturers (www.combattourniquet.com or https://tacmedsolutions.com); or from trusted and transparent specialty retailers like North American Rescue (www.narescue.com) or Chinook Medical Gear (www.chinookmed.com). In almost any quantity, however, these tourniquets will cost close to $30 per unit. An alternative option is the homegrown tourniquet from Ukrainian company TQ Dnipro (https://tqdnipro.com). Their Dnipro2 tourniquet has been designed and tested to equal the performance of the CAT & SOF-T. It retails for about $19.
At White Stork, we buy Dnipro2 tourniquets in volume (at even lower prices) to include in the IFAKs we provide directly to Ukrainian military units. We have equipped over 40,000 soldiers and civilians so far, and will continue to equip a counteroffensive brigade (4,300 soldiers) every two months for as long as we can. Of course, we would welcome your support in these efforts. But no matter how you channel your resources to aid the Ukrainians in their time of need, please make an effort to do so responsibly. The last thing a brave Ukrainian resistor bleeding on the battlefield needs is a failing tourniquet.