Dr Liz Paslawsky 'throws out rule book' to get medical supplies into Ukraine


Women on Boards member Dr Liz Paslawsky is no stranger to working in disaster zones and supporting health services for areas in crisis. 


So when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Dr Paslawsky  - who is of Ukrainian heritage and has a background in international health insurance and mentoring hospital executives - was compelled to help wounded civilians and soldiers.

The Sydney-based healthcare executive and consultant contacted the Ukrainian embassy in Canberra to ask what medical supplies were needed. 

“I decided to develop a medical supply chain from Australia into Ukraine,” Dr Paslawsky told The New Daily.

This kicked off a nationwide effort to source and ship more than 90 pallets of first aid and hospital equipment from Australia to war-torn areas of Ukraine – completely free of charge. She called in help from a team of volunteers and the help of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations.

Within a month the pallets of urgently needed surgical, ICU and general medical supplies were airlifted through London and delivered into key Ukrainian war zone areas such as Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Among the volunteers were a doctor, a surgeon, a paediatrician and a pharmacist to review the donated goods. The aid included first-aid supplies like bandages, tourniquets, thermal blankets and surgical equipment such as defibrillators.

“They were using bike tyre tubes as tourniquets,” Dr Paslawsky said of the soldiers in Ukraine. “So that’s why, for us, there was a real sense of urgency in getting those medical supplies across.”

Dr Paslawsky said the situation is fast-moving and rapidly evolving and while the aid has been delivered much more is needed. 

“‘The reason why we have been successful is that we threw the rule book out for traditional supply chain processes. We brought together a diverse group of volunteers (millennials, retirees, clinicians and business professionals), eschewed email and chains of command, and focused on creatively implementing quick, practical solutions to the severe shortage of medical supplies in Ukraine,” she said.

Dr Pasklawsy said the operation - which involved Rotary clubs, a logistics company, a major international airline and other organisations - had to be run covertly because of threats of Russian cyber attacks.

“‘We were also very aware Russia is targeting humanitarian aid and cutting off transportation into Ukraine. We avoided any promotion about what we were doing, and utilised underground distribution networks,’ she said.

About Dr Liz Paslawsky

Dr Liz Paslawsky leads a portfolio career serving on four international boards in the Ukraine, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, is a global consultant as well as a mentor to executive staff and board chairs. She is a Telstra NSW Business Woman of the Year winner, a business owner and has held CEO and senior executive positions in healthcare, banking and the not-for-profit sector.

Liz is a self-confessed “barrier basher” who has proven time over, that anything is possible. She has spent her life observing people to better understand human behaviour — a skill-set she developed at a very young age growing up in a Ukrainian community in Queensland where she didn’t speak English. Her family lived off a small organic farm in the Ukraine before ] World War II hit, forcing them to flee on a boat they thought was destined for Austria. Instead, they arrived on the shores of Australia.

She has a Masters of Psychology and a PhD in Leadership for Workforce Empowerment under her belt and gave the keynote address at this year’s European Healthcare Design Global Summit. Her expertise in knowledge systems and bridging disciplines she attributes to her understanding of people and culture because in Liz’s opinion, intellect and strategy is irrelevant if you don’t understand culture.

Listen to Liz Paslawsky’s podcast from October 2020 with Claire Braund HERE.

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