Speech by Ilham Aliyev at the opening of modular hospital in Shaki

29 july 2020, 17:30

Modular hospitals are opening in four cities of our country today. This is a very significant event. One of them is in Shaki and the others in Gobustan, Ismayilli and Gabala. So in one day we are receiving an additional 800 beds and creating additional opportunities in the fight against coronavirus.

About three months ago, I signed an order on the acquisition of modular hospitals. I said that 10 hospitals should be delivered to our country in a short time. Nine of them are ready now and the tenth hospital will probably be commissioned in August. Thus, the program will be fully executed. To date, we have opened five hospitals, and as a result of the operation of 10 hospitals, we will have an additional 2,000 beds.

This is of particular importance because coronavirus is currently assuming greater proportions in Azerbaijan and around the world. Hundreds of people fall ill in Azerbaijan every day. Under such circumstances, a lack of beds could create huge problems that we see in some developed countries. The healthcare system of even developed countries cannot cope with this. Taking this into account, we are trying to quickly resolve these issues and are on the way to achieving this. I should also say that the issue of delivery to our country of six more modular-type hospitals with 200 beds each is being resolved. They will also be delivered shortly.

In parallel, a hospital of the Ministry of Emergency Situations with 800 beds has already been opened. A second hospital with 1,300 beds will also be opened. So we will have 2,100 beds there. A fund of 2,000 beds is already available. This makes up 4,100 beds. As a result of the operation of six additional modular-type hospitals, we will have an approximate capacity of 6,000 beds. Of course, if these issues were not resolved, we could face major problems related to the coronavirus today.

I should note that coronavirus patients are currently receiving treatment in 46 hospitals in our country. Forty-one of these hospitals were built or overhauled and equipped with modern facilities over the past 16 years. Just imagine that if we had not done this work in good time, our possibilities would be very limited today. Several years ago, opposite this modular hospital, a large hospital with about 200 beds was opened in Shaki. Modern hospitals are functioning or will begin to function within a year in all our cities. We have created the infrastructure of our healthcare system. This hospital also has an intensive care unit, artificial lung ventilation equipment has been delivered. As you know, major funds have been allocated to effectively combat the coronavirus. They are being spent on equipment, medicines and other issues. I have said that as much funds will be allocated as it is necessary for people to recover as soon as possible, so that we could come out of this difficult situation with small losses.

Before the pandemic, we had only six laboratories in the country. This was probably enough for the normal regime. But a total of 700,000 tests have been conducted in Azerbaijan to date. In terms of the number of tests per capita, we are one of the leading places in the world. As a result of the large-scale implementation of these tests, we identify patients and treat them. As a result of operational measures taken, the number of laboratories has now reached 31 today. We plan to increase the number of these laboratories to 45. This issue is also being resolved. The bed capacity is being increased and patients with coronavirus are being treated in the most modern hospitals, including our best hospital “Yeni Klinik”. There are currently 360 patients there. As you know, the operation of this clinic is organized in stages.

Notice that if this clinic had not been established and if 41 other hospitals where coronavirus patients are being treated now had not been built, then we would be faced with a very difficult situation today. This shows once again that we must do everything on time. The program on the construction of new hospitals and the overhaul of the old ones, which is an integral part of the state program on the socioeconomic development of the regions, has been practically implemented in full. Even before the pandemic people were already saying that it would bring great benefits. Because before the pandemic, we were conducting a program of medical examination of the population every year. This program covers five million people. Five million people are screened using the opportunities created by the state and are immediately treated if a disease is detected. This is why our life expectancy is increasing. Even the most complex operations are carried out in Azerbaijan today.

In a word, by mobilizing all the possibilities in a short time, we are demonstrating even greater readiness in the fight against COVID. No country is ready for this, not a single one. In particular, both we and the whole world saw the situation in developed countries in the early days of the pandemic. The most developed countries were unable to provide the necessary medical services related to this disease. And this is probably natural because no-one was ready for this.

Therefore, our main goal was to properly organize all the mobilization work in a short time, create the necessary infrastructure, provide the material and technical resources in order to come out of the pandemic with minimal losses. Laboratories, hospitals and other major organizational issues were resolved, including logistical ones. At the same time, specific steps were taken to improve the financial situation of doctors. The salaries of doctors providing services to COVID patients have been increased three to five times. One of the most important and serious problems is the shortage of doctors because the number of our doctors is designed for normal operation. Therefore, the sharp increase in the number of patients certainly revealed this problem as well. We found a way out of this situation by inviting foreign doctors to Azerbaijan.

Of course, the country must be able to organize and finance all these issues. Therefore, at present, there are doctors from several foreign countries in Azerbaijan. They provide services to the sick. I believe that if necessary, we can apply this practice in the future too.

All necessary steps are being taken to combat the pandemic. In a short time, our country even began the production of medical masks, disinfectants and overalls for doctors. We did not have the production of all this before, and we did not need it either. Of course, countries don’t have to produce all the consumable goods, but we saw that it was difficult to deliver some equipment and supplies from abroad. Sometimes the signed contracts were not executed, the money was paid but we still could not deliver the necessary equipment, especially at the initial stage of the pandemic when there was a lot of anxiety in the world.

As a result of all this work, we have kept the disease under control since the first days. From the very beginning, both the citizens of Azerbaijan and the World Health Organization highly appreciated our work. I still receive letters of gratitude as people note that the Azerbaijani state promptly organized all this work and protects people’s health. The position of international organizations is also positive. The World Health Organization has described our work as exemplary. I believe that our policy of relaxation measures at the beginning of May was correct because the dynamics associated with the disease was positive at the time. There were more recovering people than those getting infected. Therefore, we went for mitigation because we knew that people were worried about this. People were deprived of their usual way of life. Therefore, we went for mitigation. But what did they see? We saw that the number of patients immediately began to grow. The positive dynamics was disrupted and we re-entered a phase of negative dynamics. So re-tightening was inevitable. Tough restrictive measures were introduced again. About a month after the start of these measures, we are observing positive dynamics again. For more than two weeks now, the number of people who have recovered in our country has been exceeding that of the infected. This is a positive trend. We all want the quarantine regime to end as soon as possible, so that we can return to our usual way of life as soon as possible. But we also see that even with the slightest mitigation the disease immediately begins to gain momentum, starts to spread rapidly and endanger people's lives.

This disease knows no age. Everyone is at risk – the elderly, middle-aged and young people. At first, it was believed that it was more dangerous for the elderly and that young people do not particularly suffer from it. But notice that young people, middle-aged people and healthy people are dying today. It was believed that people suffering from chronic diseases were at risk. This is true. But absolutely healthy people and athletes get sick as well, and seriously sick. Therefore, research on this disease is still a matter of the future. I believe that scientists still do not know the exact origins of this disease. Various theories are being put forward. I would not like to talk about it as I am not an expert. But the fact is that after the full identification of the origins and causes of the disease, it will probably become easier to treat it.

Of course, we must know that we will have to come to terms with this situation until the vaccine is developed. We should also know that although the situation is under control – doctors are well aware of this – coronavirus has not disappeared and will not disappear. We will have to live with this virus. Therefore, the moments that have been added to our traditional way of life must remain in force for a certain time: keeping a distance, personal hygiene and, of course, responsibility. I believe that by joint efforts we will get out of this situation with low losses. Let me say again: as a result of the work done so far, the situation is fully under control. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to fight the disease. Having overcome all the economic hardships, we will resolve the main issue.

Today, our results for six months, as is the case in all other countries, are not very positive. The economy is in decline. It is not particularly large though – 2.7 percent, but we had great plans for this year. Despite this, not a single social project will be cut. On the contrary, so much money has been spent and will continue to be spent on fighting the disease and on improving the financial situation of people suffering from the disease. Hundreds of thousands of people are covered by the material support program from the state. We have to increase expenditures and it is necessary to revise budget spending because the attraction of additional funding for these purposes will be inevitable. These funds, of course, were not budgeted for. Therefore, a change will probably be introduced to the budget, and I think that this is the right step because the primary issue for us at present is the health of people and their lives.

Of course, along with the efforts of the state, a lot also depends on the activities of doctors, their role is crucial. You are always in contact with patients, risking your health and life. Unfortunately, the number of deaths among doctors is growing. We can get out of this situation only through joint efforts – the responsibility of state bodies, the professionalism of doctors, their loyalty to their oath and the responsibility of citizens. We must get out of this situation through collective efforts. I am sure that it will be the case. I wish you success. Take good care of the patients. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Try not to get sick. I wish you good health and success. Once again, I congratulate you!