BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 28
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva have attended the inauguration of “Yeni klinika" medical institution in Baku.
Chairman of the Board of the Management Union of Medical Territorial Units(TƏBİB) Ramin Bayramli informed the head of state of the conditions created here.
The 575-bed medical institution will employ more than 1500 doctors and medical personnel.
After viewing the conditions created in the medical institution, President Ilham Aliyev met with the hospital staff.
The head of state made a speech at the meeting.
Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
A new hospital is starting to operate today – one of the largest in our country. This is a very significant event. The hospital meets all modern standards. The appearance of the building is beautiful, in architectural terms it imparts additional beauty to our city. Most importantly, the hospital uses the most modern standards, the latest equipment has been purchased and all the work related to the equipment has been completed at the highest level. I believe that this is the leading hospital in Azerbaijan in terms of equipment and services that will be provided here.
As you know, this hospital was built on my initiative. I remember that when this decision was made some people felt that it was not necessary because many hospitals have been built in our country in recent years and it was believed that there was no need for a new large hospital. However, life is proving that it was a very correct and timely decision because patients infected with coronavirus will be treated here from tomorrow. Until the end of the pandemic, only patients infected with coronavirus will be treated in this hospital. Therefore, the commissioning of this hospital will, of course, create additional opportunities for us in the fight against coronavirus.
I should also note that the hospital was scheduled for opening at the end of the summer and beginning of fall. However, due to the pandemic, work was stepped up, additional funds were allocated, resources were mobilized, and we are thus entering a phased operation of the hospital. The hospital has 575 beds. However, at the first stage, 100 and then 300 beds will be available to patients. The total area of the hospital is about 100,000 square meters. There are 70 emergency rooms here. This forms an important part of the care of patients infected with coronavirus. There are 21 operating rooms here. There is currently no need for these operating rooms. However, at the end of the pandemic, the hospital will continue to operate according to its profile.
I believe that the placement of patients with coronavirus here is the right decision because these people are currently the most sensitive group, and their treatment and provision of the necessary medical services to them is the most important issue now. You, doctors, are well aware that even the most developed countries are experiencing major problems in the fight against this disease. About a thousand people die in these countries every day. If there are such major problems associated with this disease in countries with highly developed medicine, then it is not difficult to imagine what problems we may encounter. Therefore, in order to provide coronavirus patients with the highest quality care, the most modern and best hospital in our country is being made available to them, and you, doctors, will provide them with services here.
In general, a lot of work has been done in recent years to improve the healthcare system in our country. Since 2004, more than 750 medical institutions have been built or overhauled. I personally attended the opening of many of them. There is not a single city in Azerbaijan today that would not have a modern medical center, a hospital. The construction of central district hospitals is ongoing in three or four cities, and they are expected to be opened in the near future. This year alone, I have attended the opening of central district hospitals in Gazakh, Goranboy and Shamkir. Just imagine that if we hadn’t paid due attention to this area, our capabilities today would not be sufficient to provide for our needs. I remember that when I had just started working as president in 2004, several people were killed as a result of a residential building collapsing in Lankaran. Many more were injured. I immediately went to Lankaran, visited those affected and was horrified by the picture I saw. It was completely impossible to call that building a hospital. In other words, it was a run-down building with rusted equipment. There was no equipment in the wards –only ordinary beds. I asked what it was. They said that it was a central district hospital. I asked where those in critical condition were. I was told that they were in intensive care. I asked to be taken to intensive care and said that I wanted to visit them. And what an intensive care unit it was! We went one floor up to the same rooms, same walls, same wooden beds and no equipment. I asked whether this was an intensive care unit. They said it was. Such was the state of our healthcare system in 2004. On my instruction, the construction of the first medical diagnostic center immediately began in the city of Lankaran. After that, about 20 diagnostic centers were built in our districts. As for the construction of central district hospitals, as I have already said, these hospitals are still not up to standard perhaps only in two cities, but there are plans to build them as well.
We have placed those infected by coronavirus in several hospitals, including those in Baku and in the regions. If we didn’t have this infrastructure, how could we fight this disease?! At the same time, I must note that the professionalism of our doctors has significantly increased in recent years. It is difficult to imagine now that it was impossible to carry out complex operations in Azerbaijan 10-15 years ago. Today, our doctors carry out complex operations and bring people back to life. For many years now, open heart surgery and organ transplantation have been carried out in Azerbaijan. In other words, it was impossible even to imagine all this several years ago. Therefore, a lot has been done to train doctors and enhance their professionalism. Our students were sent to higher educational institutions abroad and attended various medical courses. Therefore, our healthcare infrastructure must be consistent with the professionalism and knowledge of our doctors. A lot still remains to be done in this area. Of course, you are well aware that medical science is developing very fast in the world. The previously incurable diseases can be treated today. Therefore, Azerbaijani doctors, especially the younger generation, the middle generation of doctors, must always work on themselves so that we could use the existing and new technologies emerging around the world, new rules and new treatment methods. I believe that additional work needs to be done in this area.
Of course, I think that we will achieve a very serious turnaround in the healthcare system as a result of a complete introduction of compulsory health insurance in Azerbaijan. As you know, pilot projects have been implemented in three cities. I am told that residents of these cities are very pleased with the activities of the Compulsory Health Insurance Agency. Doctors are also satisfied. Patients undergo the necessary treatment. Therefore, there were plans to switch to compulsory health insurance in the country this year. However, due to the coronavirus, the implementation of this program may be slightly delayed because we must take our steps according to the situation. I believe, among other things, that as a result of the preventive measures in the fight against coronavirus, we are keeping the situation under control. But I want to say again that the situation has got out of control even in the most developed countries. The death of thousands of people and the extensive spread of the disease in the world are a great test, a great challenge for all countries. We must work in such a way and take such measures in order to get out of this situation with minimum losses. For this purpose, a Task Force was established on my instruction. It operates around the clock. I believe that the operation of the headquarters has led to very important steps.
We are in contact with the World Health Organization. I believe that we were one of the first countries to establish contact with this organization and invite its specialists. They got acquainted with the situation and appreciated the work we are doing. At the same time, as a responsible and highly respected member of the international community, we donated $5 million to the World Health Organization to fight coronavirus. This is our valuable contribution to the common cause, the solution to the problem the world is facing. Of course, all the work carried out in our country, the decisions being made pursue one goal only: to get out of this difficult situation with minimum losses and protect our citizens as much as possible. Therefore, I believe that the decisions made on 14 March and afterwards, the introduction of the quarantine regime, the adoption of new restrictive measures starting from tomorrow and their entry into force are consistent with the current situation. We were one of the first countries to close universities, schools, kindergartens, land borders and to sharply reduce the number of flights. Currently, there are flights only in two directions and even that is done once a week. These flights are carried out only to deliver Azerbaijani citizens to our country. I should also inform you that more than 10,000 Azerbaijani citizens have been evacuated to our country from other states so far. Currently, every person arriving in Azerbaijan is quarantined. I believe that the work we are doing in relation to quarantine is also exemplary. Quarantined people are held in four- and five-star hotels. More than a thousand people are accommodated in the Athletes Village.
I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to business people for the free transfer of these hotels for our common cause. Among them is the biggest hotel in our country – the Boulevard Hotel, which has made itself fully available to combat this disease. Hotels "Qafqaz", “Pullman”, hotels located in the regions, including Lankaran, Lerik, other cities, Nabran – in other words, all our main four- and five-star hotels and recreation areas have been placed at the disposal of those in quarantine. In addition, recreation areas of some of our state agencies are also involved in this. So let me reiterate that the comfort of those in quarantine has been ensured and the state has incurred all expenses. And this is the way it should be. Our state always stands by its citizens and we once again demonstrated this in these difficult days.
Making the country's best hospital available to coronavirus patients – what can be more than this? Therefore, all the decisions made earlier were in line with the situation, including the one on restricting the schedule of public catering facilities. We understand that people are already used to this, some no longer cook at home and eat out. We understood that it was impossible to close these facilities from the very beginning. We did it gradually and limited their work. But now we are seeing that these facilities, unfortunately, play a large role in the spread of coronavirus. Therefore, from tomorrow these facilities will cease to operate. We announced this last night so that the owners of such facilities had some time to settle things and prepare for the cessation. A whole day was provided to the owners of retail facilities, so that they could settle their affairs. Therefore, when making a certain decision, we think about the patients, about entrepreneurs and about working people in order to get out of this situation with minimum losses.
Of course, coronavirus is a major blow to the country's economy too. In January-February, our economy developed at a very fast pace. Suffice it to say that economic growth in the non-oil sector is 6.7 percent. This is one of the highest indicators on a global scale. Industrial production in the non-oil sector has increased by 21.7 percent. I think this is also a record indicator. Inflation is at 2.8 percent and household incomes have increased by 9 percent. In other words, this growth significantly exceeds inflation. The average wage has also significantly increased. The number of visitors to Azerbaijan increased by 18 percent in January-February. It should also be noted that in the last five years the number of tourists has consistently increased. Today, all this has been paused. Of course, in the current circumstances, all countries are facing great economic difficulties. Heads of state and government of developed countries have openly stated that this disease will lead to a very serious crisis. At the same time, leading international financial institutions also openly declare that this disease, the consequences it has already caused and its future implications will be more severe than the crisis of 2008-2009. The global economy has been hit hard. In addition, oil prices have reduced by more than in half and are now at $24. Of course, this will lead to major losses for us. However, I believe that the work done on the basis of our previous decisions will allow us the opportunity to come out of this test with dignity.
But everyone should understand that the world has entered a new period. No-one knows how long this will continue. No-one knows how long the disease will last. I think that all forecasts are conditional. How will consequences of this disease manifest themselves? We do not know this either because we are at the initial stage of the disease and should protect ourselves as much as we can.
The government is taking all measures. I believe that the measures I have mentioned are the most correct. At the same time, one billion manats have been allocated to the Cabinet of Ministers to support entrepreneurs and people who lost their jobs. Four working groups have been set up. The goal of these working groups is to solve employment issues, ensure economic stability, maintain macroeconomic stability and mobilize our financial resources. Working groups have started to work and proposals are being prepared. We will definitely help and are already helping both patients and business people. I should emphasize that Azerbaijani businessmen and Azerbaijani society have acted very decently in this situation. As you know, a Fund to Support Fight Against Coronavirus was established on my initiative. Initially, 20 million manats was donated to the fund from the President’s Contingency Fund. Less than 10 days have passed since the fund was set up and, as I was informed last night, 90 million manats has already been accumulated in it. The vast majority of this amount is made up of donations from companies. I express gratitude to Azerbaijani business people for this. They have showed true patriotism and solidarity. At the same time, ordinary people have provided their support within the limits of their capabilities. I am regularly updated about that. Someone transfers one manat and we say “Thank you!” to them. They also fulfill their civic duty. This means that this is what they can afford. It also shows that we – I said this earlier but I want to say it again – are a great people. We were able to unite in the most difficult time. I believe that the slogan “We are strong together!” will remain relevant after the end of the disease. We are demonstrating this unity and solidarity.
I believe that the only issue we still can’t fully be satisfied with is the issue of responsibility because some people act irresponsibly. They are trying to break the rules. Thus, they endanger themselves, their loved ones and strangers. This cannot be done. These rules have been adopted in order to contain the infection. People aged above 65 should not go out. They must understand this. Our police officers try very politely to explain this to them. You are well aware of how the police behave in some countries. We see on television that they switch into action without asking any questions. Our police protects people. There is a tremendous burden workload on them now, tremendous responsibility. They are also putting their health on the line. They do the explanatory work day and night. What should we do?! We cannot allow the rules to be broken. Some say nothing will happen to me, others insist that they are not afraid. It is not about whether something will happen to you or not. First, if something happens to you, at least 10 doctors would serve you. Ten doctors will have to risk their lives and health, the health of their loved ones because of one irresponsible person. It is absolutely unacceptable to think, “I am not afraid, nothing will happen to me.” I believe that such people should be held accountable. In this situation, we try as much as possible to understand people's anxiety and help them. It is difficult for everyone. It is clear that it is difficult to stay at home, especially when you consider that beautiful parks and recreation areas have been created in Baku and other places, in our districts in recent years, the weather is good. But everyone must be responsible. You mustn’t act like that. People above 65 must stay at home. That's all, this is unequivocal! In addition, you cannot gather in groups of more than 10. This rule is also being violated. Therefore, these measures will be further tightened.
Notice what is happening in developed European countries. People can’t gather in groups of more than two there. More than two! If the police see this, they take immediate action. They do not persuade anyone, they just take action. Therefore, each of us should have a sense of responsibility. And it should reach the level of solidarity and unity we are demonstrating today.
Of course, the main burden in this fight falls on the shoulders of our doctors. I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Azerbaijani doctors. We have taken additional measures to improve their material security. As you know, the salaries of doctors serving patients with coronavirus have been increased three, four and five times. This is a manifestation of the government’s attention to doctors. But I know and am absolutely convinced that this is not the main motivation for doctors. The main thing is that they want to do their job. They want to demonstrate their allegiance to the Hippocratic oath. They demonstrate the highest qualities inherent in our people and, at the cost of their own lives, serve the patients. Therefore, all citizens of Azerbaijan must support doctors, including those infected with coronavirus. They must understand that doctors are serving them in such difficult conditions, in outfit that hinders movement, in masks. Therefore, doctors deserve the highest praise. Various campaigns are being held and will continue to be held to demonstrate solidarity with doctors and support them. Our attitude to doctors will be reflected on the Flame Towers, one of the modern architectural symbols of our country.
I want to say this again: the government is doing everything necessary. Doctors are doing their best. Our people are demonstrating unity and solidarity. I hope that the level of responsibility is up to standard. If this is the case, we will be able to get out of this difficult test with minimum losses and preserve the health of our citizens. We will once again demonstrate to ourselves and to the whole world that we are a great nation.
My warm greetings to all of you. Tomorrow our best hospital will start treatment of patients. This places a huge responsibility on you. I wish you success. I hope you stay healthy, not become infected with this disease and fulfill your duty with dignity. Thank you!