The Business Year

Oqtay Shiraliyev

AZERBAIJAN - Health & Education

Time for a Check Up

Minister of Health, Azerbaijan


Oqtay Shiraliyev began his medical career as a junior researcher at the Roentgenology, Radiology, and Oncology Research Institute and was appointed Chief of the Republican Endoscopic Centre in 1982. From 1983 to 1988, he was Chief at the Ministry of Health’s Scientific Department. He was then appointed Director of the Republican Diagnostic Center, a position he held for 17 years. In addition to heading up the Ministry of Health, he is a professor of medicine and continues to supervise doctoral candidates and produce academic research.

What were the Ministry’s main accomplishments in 2013, as far as improving the quantity and quality of medical services and infrastructure are concerned? Extensive work is underway to upgrade healthcare […]

What were the Ministry’s main accomplishments in 2013, as far as improving the quantity and quality of medical services and infrastructure are concerned?

Extensive work is underway to upgrade healthcare infrastructure and improve the material and technical offering of medical institutions. A total of 81 medical facilities were built and renovated in 2013 alone. Of these, 43 are located in Baku and 38 in other regions. A further 56 medical facilities were renovated in the same year. In addition, the Baku Health Center has been built and fitted with the latest medical equipment. Traditionally, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev attends the opening ceremonies of major medical facilities, including the Baku Health Center, the Surgical Clinic of the Azerbaijan Medical University, Sumgayit City Hospital No. 1, and the central hospitals of Astara, Agjabadi, Jalilabad, Lankaran, and Yevlakh Districts. The volume and quality of services provided to the population has dramatically improved. At the same time, the effectiveness of hospitals has also risen. In 2003, the average hospital bed was used for just 82 days; in 2013 this figure has risen to 249 days, which represents a three fold increase. The number of patients applying to in-patient and out-patient clinics has also risen by 65%. Additionally, the development of strategies for dealing with such priority fields of medicine as oncology, renal insufficiency, diabetes, thalassaemia, hemophilia, infant and mother mortality, and immunoprophylaxis have been instrumental in expanding the volume and improving the quality of medical service. A total of AZN80.1 million was spent as part of these programs in 2013 alone. The treatment of patients suffering from these conditions has produced positive results. In the past 10 years alone, the mortality rate of thalassaemia has dropped to a fifth of what it was, and that of diabetes and tuberculosis has diminished by a factor of 2.6. Deaths as a result of hemophilia have been halved.

How is the Ministry working to promote maternal and child healthcare, and what have been the major advances in this area in 2013?

The improvement of the quality of mother and child services represents one of the priorities of the country’s social policy. And the national strategy, which involves providing newborns with electronic health cards, and is working on developing immunoprophylaxis, has been a success. A number of important activities were undertaken in 2013 to resolve problems related to the organization of antenatal services and pregnancy hospitalization. To this end, the Ministry has adopted a number of documents regulating the activities of medical facilities in this area. One of the existing problems has been the gradual increase in the number of Caesarean operations in recent years. Certain amendments have been introduced to the laws to prevent such operations in the absence of medical problems. Also, the Ministry of Health has outlined a guideline named “Medical Conditions for Caesarean Operations,” and has agreed on a clinical protocol for such surgery. The material and technical infrastructure of medical institutions providing mother and child health services has improved, and this field is receiving more medicine and equipment in recent years. In 2003, the infant mortality rate in Azerbaijan was 16.7 per 1,000, but this figure dropped to 10.8 in 2013. Maternal mortality has dropped from 18.5 per 1,000 to 14.5 over the same period.

This year was designated as the Year of ICT by the current administration. How is technology being used to promote better healthcare in Azerbaijan?

We are working hard to introduce state-of-the-art information technologies to the healthcare system. First of all, the system of electronic health cards for citizens has been developed and introduced, and there are currently 11 registers for different diseases. In 2013, the Health Ministry introduced a total of 28 electronic services provided through the Ministry’s website. A system of electronic control over the activities of medical institutions and centralized recruitment of medical personnel, along with an electronic system for monitoring infectious diseases and the circulation of medicines, an ambulance dispatcher service, and other electronic programs have been commissioned.

How is R&D progressing in the medical sector?

Medical institutions in Azerbaijan have a total research and educational staff of 2,700 people, including 12 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 171 professors, 261 doctors of medicine, and over 1,200 PhDs. More than 120 doctoral theses and over 600 PhD theses have been defended in Azerbaijan over the past 10 years. In 2013, the scientific research institutions of the Health Ministry completed nine important projects covering different spheres of medical science.

Today, the pharmaceutical sector is dominated by foreign medication. In your opinion, what are the prospects for the development of the sector and of domestic pharmaceutical companies?

Since domestic medicine production is practically absent in our country, more than 99% of the local demand is met by imports. There are 70 distributors, dealers, and other organizations engaged in the wholesale trade of pharmaceuticals, and around 1,800 pharmacies in Azerbaijan today. The state register of medicines approved by the state currently includes over 4,000 drugs. Proper provision of the population with medicines and state oversight in this area are crucially important. Taking into consideration the vital social role of this issue, the Ministry has joined forces with several other government agencies to introduce the state regulation of prices on pharmaceuticals.

What do you expect will be the most important initiatives your Ministry will undertake in 2015?

The implementation of the state program on the compulsory medical examination of children will be continued. This is evidence of the importance the government attaches to the protection of children’s health. The state program on oncology is also scheduled for adoption in 2014. In addition, according to the “Azerbaijan 2020: Outlook for the Future” development concept, the state program on improving mother and child health over the period from 2014 to 2020 and a strategy for fighting non-infectious diseases in Azerbaijan will be adopted. Also in 2014, the National Thalassaemia Center is expected to complete preparations to begin bone marrow transplantation operations in Azerbaijan.



You may also be interested in...

Fariz Azizov


Call to Market


Chairman of the Executive Board, Baku Stock Exchange

Ogtay Shiraliyev

AZERBAIJAN - Health & Education

A Steady Hand


Minister of Health, Azerbaijan

Arzu Hajiyeva


Safe Hands


Partner, Tax & Law Department at Ernst & Young

View All interviews