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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Top Health Inspector Dismissed

Itar-TassDeputy Prime Minister Sergei Naryshkin and Zurabov at Monday's meeting
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov on Monday dismissed the head of the country's health inspectorate, Ramil Khabriyev -- an ominous sign for embattled Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov.

Fradkov cited poor management of the country's drug subsidization program as the main motivation behind the dismissal.

"The situation [with the health service] is not good," Fradkov told a Cabinet meeting. "And the measures that we are adopting are being made ad hoc."

Fradkov also indicated that Khabriyev might not be the last official to face censure in the wake of the problems plaguing the drug subsidization program.

"This signal needs to be sent down the entire chain [of command]," Fradkov said. "We should look at the situation with health authorities in a number of regions and also consider holding the heads of health inspectorate's regional directorates personally responsible."

While giving the nod to Fradkov's decision, President Vladimir Putin suggested that emphasis might be placed elsewhere.

"Dealing with personnel problems is fine and necessary, but if we do not deal with production issues, we cannot solve the problem [of medicine supply]," Putin was quoted as saying by RIA-Novosti.

Putin told the Cabinet that the country must put the production of medications back on track rather than relying on imports, adding that 93 percent of the whole volume of medication that goes into the drug reimbursement program is made abroad.

Meanwhile, Zurabov may have a crisis of his own. The minister has been subject to widespread criticism, particularly over his handling of pension reforms introduced in early 2005, and Monday's decision may serve to weaken his position further.

State Duma deputies have often called on Zurabov to resign -- a sentiment reflected by the numerous protests urging the minister to step down.

A countrywide opinion poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation after the introduction of pension reforms in 2005 found that he had an 8 percent job approval rating.

"Despite persistent warnings by experts that 60 million rubles [$2.3 million] would be required to finance the program in 2006, Zurabov insisted that only 29 million rubles were to be earmarked for the program," Moskovsky Komsomolets reported Monday.

As a result of the lack of planning, the health ministry is now in debt to pharmaceutical companies to the tune of 40 billion rubles, making the likelihood of a shortfall in supplies a real prospect, the paper said.

Zurabov promised that he would dismiss a number of regional health officials in order to combat the shortage of prescription drugs, RIA-Novosti reported.

"We will analyze the situation in certain regions in the near future and prepare proposals to sack heads of regional health authorities that have failed to implement the program to distribute additional prescription drugs," Zurabov said, the agency reported.

The day's reshuffle came after comments made by Putin in late February, when he remarked on problems surrounding the drug reimbursement program, adding that issue should have been addressed earlier.