The last patients and doctors of the Republican Medical Center of Nagorno-Karabakh left for Armenia in a motorcade on September 28 – five bedridden patients, several more patients moving independently and more than 15 medical workers and technical staff. They took with them what they could: some tools and equipment, medicine and after their departure, the hospital stopped working, says Artashes Saiyan, reanimatologist of the Republican Medical Center.
In the front and at the end of the motorcade, according to him, were the ambulances of the hospital with patients in bed. And in between them, there were other patients and medical workers with their families in passenger cars.
Artashes Saiyan says the Russian peacekeepers were informed that such a motorcade was moving to Armenia. "But they didn't accompany us. When we were going down to the river after the Old Shen village, the Russian peacekeepers made an agreement with the other [Azerbaijani] side to open a corridor for us and give us the opportunity to cross the road faster than others in a motorcade. We reached Kornidzor in about 14 hours, which is very fast under these conditions. Because we know that our citizens, unfortunately, have been on the road for 2-3 days, in terrible traffic jams," he said.
On their way to Armenia, they picked up several more displaced people who needed medical help, including a newborn child with the mother. The motorcade stopped several times to provide aid to those whose health deteriorated along the way. After entering Armenia, the patients were placed in the Goris Medical Center, and there the doctors had to decide whom to leave and whom to transfer to Yerevan.
Artashes Saiyan and his family are already in Yerevan, but he still cannot understand why everything happened so quickly. According to his assessment, "artificial political processes" took place.
"When the siege of Artsakh began in December of last year, the hospital switched to a special working regime. Only patients requiring urgent medical care were admitted, all scheduled events were cancelled. There was a shortage of medicines. They began to use them very sparingly. Part of them was kept for the war.
When the large-scale aggression of Azerbaijan against Artsakh began on September 19 of this year, the doctors of the Republican Medical Center took their patients, including those hospitalized due to prolonged hunger, to the basement or first floor, which are relatively safe places. Those who could move on their own were discharged. Then the flow of the wounded started, very intensively. Wounded civilians and soldiers were brought," he remembers.
According to Artashes Saiyan, thanks to the competent work of the Ministry of Health and the management of the medical center, the hospital did not have any problems with medicines and tools when receiving the wounded and later the victims of the explosion. According to him, the problem was not the lack of painkillers, but to provide timely help to everyone, because the flow was very large.
The doctor reminds that during the 44-day war, and before that, every time there was a need, doctors from Armenia and the Diaspora came to help doctors in Artsakh, but this time because of the blockade, they were left alone without enough helping hands.
"But it should be said that we did it with honor, both the Children's Hospital, where our colleague Marat Harutyunyan, together with the chief doctor, very competently organized the help to the wounded and those who suffered burns, and the Republican hospital. Everyone showed up and heroically helped and fought, although during all that it turned out that they too had losses in the ranks of their relatives, or they met their relatives among those burned and wounded. No one was discouraged and everyone was working. The hospital of Russian peacekeepers also helped us a lot, their medical service, doctors," he said.
After the September 19 attack and the explosion in the fuel terminal, it became clear to the doctors that eventually the medical center would be evacuated. Different dates were mentioned: until December 1, or until January 1. When the evacuation of the patients began, there was an order that after the final and successful transfer of the patients, the doctors should also leave Stepanakert.
"The events unfolded very quickly. There are processes in politics that last long. Even the examples of Kosovo, Abkhazia, Ossetia ... But all that happened very quickly: war, disarmament, and then the catastrophic explosion. And, in fact, that order that we should evacuate, the very Republican Hospital, which is the most powerful medical facility in Artsakh, should be evacuated. The sad thing was that you found yourself in a war left without help, in a siege, like 300 Spartans. And in that case, the hope is on one's own strength," Artashes Saiyan added.
"We walked through this road together with our patients, there was no fear," he continues. "People were just angry with the enemy." They said that if there were weapons, we would have fought. It is unjust when the superpowers attack the small, 120,000-strong Artsakh, and they are not even able to finish the job, they stop their random operation, causing many losses. And as a result of some... I don't know based on what political processes, it is decided that weapons should be laid down, disbanded, surrendered... You can feel the course of these artificial processes."
He still asks himself why it happened so. "I don't know, I'm not a political scientist, but we had the strength to fight. It's sad that this is how it all ended... However, I think it's not over. We left our hearts in Artsakh to return to Artsakh with victory, and that will happen," says Artashes Saiyan.