The Minister for Health, Hon Jane Aceng has said government will soon roll out a policy and strategy on emergency medical services that will enable infrastructure development and training of more Ugandan doctors to participate in Uganda’s oil and gas sector.
Hon. Aceng said the bill which has already been tabled before cabinet is in response to concerns from the oil and gas companies and Ugandans that there is lack of capacity by most Uganda’s health facilities and personnel to provide emergency medical services and other health services to oil and gas sector.
“An assessment of health care services in Uganda that was done recently revealed that there is a wide health gap in healthcare services that meet the oil and gas sector standards especially in the Albertine region which calls for our immediate response” the minister said.
She further asked the private sector to work hand in hand with government to improve the standards of the health services in Uganda as government is limited by lack of enough funds to cover all areas.
The minister was speaking at the first Intersect or health conference organized today Friday at Serena kampala Hotel by Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) in partnership with the Health Ministry and the Uganda Healthcare Foundation for the different players in the health sector to discuss opportunities and challenges presented by the oil and gas sector and how Uganda health workers can benefit from the opportunities.
Speaking at the same event, the Executive Director, PAU, Ernest Rubondo urged health workers/ investors in Uganda to focus on standardizing health services if they are to competitively participate and benefit from the oil and gas sector.
Rubondo said that the oil and gas sector presents a lot of opportunities apart from the revenue that Uganda will get from the sale like employment and investment opportunities and market for goods and services, however there is need for proper planning and organisation for Ugandans to meet the extremely high standards especially for the health sector which in most cases are not easy to attain.
He however argued that these standards should not be a hindrance for Uganda but an opportunity to improve on service delivery.
“Standards are an opportunity rather than a challenge, we must agree that if Uganda’s economy is to grow, there is need to produce standardized and high quality goods and services. If there is a sector that demands high standards, them we should take advantage of this to improve the economy,” he said.
Betty Namubiru, the Manager, National Content at PAU in her presentation on the status of the oil and gas sector noted that currently, the health care services and facilities especially in the oil areas of the Albertina region are still lacking in numbers and standards hence the need for more investments as well as improving the standards of the available facilities and services.
“At the peak of the oil production, we expect more than 13000 workers in the Tilenga and kingfisher oil development areas who will need health services, health insurance, first aid and emergency response services, ambulances, training of health workers, counselling and guidance for workers among others. Currently, according to our report, we don’t not have enough facilities and health workers so there are alot of opportunities in that” she said
The Executive Director, Private Sector Foundation of Uganda (PSFU), Gideon Bandagawa said the private sector and the rest of Uganda has high expectations from the oil and gas sector in terms of income growth, investments and job opportunities, however, these expectations will not be met, if Ugandans do not make viable and sustainable business plans that can meet the demands of the oil sector.
He further asked government to create conducive and favourable investment and business environment for the private sector to thrive
“The private and public sector must work together if Ugandans are going to benefit from this oil with each party doing its part. We expect good roads, security, power connectivity in the rural areas so that Ugandans can get good return on their investments” he said
Pauline Byakika Kibwika, the Total E&P, company medical adviser who made a joint presentation for the developers noted there was only three hospitals in the whole of Uganda that could provide health services to the oil and gas sector which presented opportunities for investment in the areas.
She further noted that there was need for more training facilities especially for emergency response medical services which is currently not well covered in Uganda
The president of the Uganda Medical association, Dr Ekwaro Obuku noted that Uganda doctors have the capability to work in the oil and gas sector however there is need to orient them to specifications for the developers.
“There has been fears that the Ugandan doctors cannot get employment or offer services in the oil sector because of the complexity of the health situations by the international workers, however from the presentation today, we are convinced that we have capabilities. There are courses at Makerere University at Makerere University in emergency medicine in which Total and Cnooc can invest in so that they ensure that the standards they require are being followed up” he said