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Lifesaving Repairs: EU4Business helps re-launch diagnostic centre for cancer patients in Zaporizhzhia


Running a business in a war zone takes a lot of resilience.

Military occupation, looting, destruction of premises and equipment, and the loss of staff can cause multi-million losses and bring even the sturdiest business to its knees.

And there has been a less obvious and more insidious problem for businesses to deal with in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale war in Ukraine and bombing campaigns against civilian infrastructure – cuts and fluctuations in power supplies, which can damage delicate electronic equipment beyond repair.

Just such a problem was faced by Oleksandr Syrotkin, one of the founders and the director of Premium, a CT scanning centre in the south-eastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.

Russian mass attacks on Ukrainian civilian energy infrastructure in late 2022 caused widespread damage. Premium’s premises were unscathed, but voltage swings in the power supply ruined sensitive (and expensive) equipment – specifically the CT scanner’s X-ray tube. Replacing the part would cost tens of thousands of euros, putting the business on the brink of failure.

Quality first

Syrotkin had long dreamed of starting his own business, and in 2017, having teamed up with several fellow radiologists, he started a company to provide MRI services in its own clinic.

Unfortunately, even before the full-scale war, there were problems for the new company from the start.

“We found a space,” Syrotkin recalls. “We signed a contract on shipping a Philips Achieva 3Т MRI Machine, and even launched a business website. But right away we faced the problem of a shortage of qualified personnel in Zaporizhzhia.”

While the search for employees was still on, talking to colleagues and competitors alike revealed another vulnerability: The MRI machine they had chosen couldn’t compete with less powerful, yet more modern devices, so they had to scrap their initial plans.

“Instead, we found a niche that was really worth looking into,” Syrotkin says. “We teamed up with the Zaporizhzhia Regional Clinical Oncology Centre, and opened a CT scan centre on its premises. We equipped our business with a Toshiba Aquilion 64 CT scanner, which could produce images of necessary quality for the patients of the Oncology Centre.”

Having brought in the best of the best of the specialists in Ukraine to implement the project, the founders then contracted a certified company to install the equipment. And so the Premium diagnostic centre was launched in February 2019.

War and blackouts

The city of Zaporizhzhia is a large regional centre in Ukraine, but it is separated from the frontline by mere kilometres. Shelling by the enemy is therefore commonplace there.

All the same, the Premium CT scanning centre has continued to provide healthcare services despite the enemy’s missile attacks and shortages of both patients and doctors (many have been forced to flee the city, taking their children to safer areas). The clinic was able to keep serving patients from all over the region almost continuously because there were only two CT scanners of such quality in the entire region, and one of them was in the city of Melitopol, now under Russian military occupation.

But it was not bombs, missiles, rockets or artillery shells that were to deal the business its most serious blow. Rather, it was the thousands of dollars of damage suffered by the CT scanner’s sensitive X-ray tube due to power supply fluctuations.

“It was just too much for us,” says Syrotkin. “Despite a lot of people offering to help – even our employees offered their personal savings to contribute to the cause – the repairs put our company in a very tough situation financially. We couldn’t afford essentials like a new X-ray tube, and we had a backlog in unpaid wages.”

Vital assistance for the company came in the form of a grant from the EU4Business: SME Competitiveness and Internationalisation programme. Premium used the grant money to both purchase the equipment it needed and pay off debts, which in turn helped the centre retain its most valuable asset – its highly qualified staff.

There are still problems: today the business is planning to expand to meet the needs of the numerous internally displaced persons who are resettling in the city of Zaporizhzhia from all over Zaporizhzhia, Kherson and Donetsk oblasts. The centre’s current capacity is simply not enough to provide all those people with sufficient healthcare services.

“Every now and then, we find ourselves on the verge of giving up, especially during the periods when new challenges arrive daily,” Syrotkin says.

“However, having a ‘shoulder’ we can lean on and get support from is a huge motivation booster, and we want to aim even higher,” Syrotkin says.

“For us, the EU4Business initiative is that ‘shoulder.’”

The EU4Business: SME Competitiveness and Internationalisation programme is financed by the European Union and the German foreign development company Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH under the EU4Business umbrella. The programme is aimed at supporting economic sustainability, recovery and growth in Ukraine, while creating better conditions for Ukrainian SMEs and supporting innovation and exports.

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