Professor Piotr Rutkowski, of the Maria-Sklodowska-Curie National Research Institute, discusses how Poland is managing the influx of 5 million Ukrainian refugees since the war began and tells host Dr. John Sweetenham, of the UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, about the future health needs of Ukrainian refugees with cancer.
Dr. John Sweetenham: Hello. I’m Dr. John Sweetenham, the associate director for Clinical Affairs at UT Southwestern's Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and host of the ASCO Daily News podcast. My guest today is Professor Piotr Rutkowski, who leads the department of Soft Tissue and Bone Sarcoma and Melanoma at the Maria Sklodowska-Curie National Research Institute of Oncology in Warsaw, Poland. Prof. Rutkowski is also the deputy director for the National Oncological Strategy and Clinical Trials, and serves as president of the Polish Oncological Society. Prof. Rutkowski spoke with us earlier this year as millions of people were fleeing the war in Ukraine, and he described the really remarkable response from both the Polish government and his institution to this crisis.
He's back on the podcast today to tell us about cancer care for Ukrainian refugees 5 months into the conflict, and how health systems are coping with the influx of millions of refugees. He will also share his insights on the kind of support that will be needed long-term to care for these patients in the future.
Our full disclosures are available in the show notes and disclosures relating to all guests on the podcast can be found on our transcripts at asco.org/podcasts.
Professor Rutkowski, thank you for being on the podcast today. It's been about 4 months since we last spoke. How are you doing?
Dr. Piotr Rutkowski: I'm very privileged that we can speak again. I'm talking probably on behalf of many Polish physicians and citizens involved with this dramatic situation of war in Ukraine and helping our patients and citizens from Ukraine. And I feel okay, but of course, the situation is still dramatic, and we don't know what will happen during the next months. What we can tell, first, is what has been changed for these last 4 months, it is the number. So as of now, almost 5 million people from Ukraine crossed the border between Ukraine and Poland. And we can estimate that about 3 million refugees stay temporary or maybe even permanently in our country. This is a completely new situation because it means that it's about 10% of our citizens now.
And what didn't change but still the cancer care for Ukrainian patients is the extension of regular cancer care within our national oncology network and our national health fund with this Polish insurance system. And this is the same for patients in Poland. And so all refugees from Ukraine are entitled to receive the same care as citizens of Poland.
Still, this extraordinary legislation, which was adopted by the Polish parliament, covers all the refugees of war, social security, and health insurance. And we have a better situation because all comprehensive cancer centers or major cancer centers organize the help with a hotline, not only on the level of the whole country but also on the center level in the Ukrainian language. And the majority of these centers have staff speaking the Ukrainian language.
Moreover, what I can say as a president of Polish Oncological Society, recently, with the help of an educational grant, we bought electronic translators for major oncological cancer centers. So they can help in the situation, like in the emergency situation, when we have access to live talk. So they can be used in that situation. And in my opinion, it is very, very helpful. So this is the current situation. And of course, I will present further the structure of oncological patients from Ukraine in Poland now and what's been done.
Dr. John Sweetenham: Thank you. It's really quite extraordinary to grasp that your patient population almost overnigh