Health investment opportunities in the oil and the gas sector

By John Odyek

The Ministry of Health recently created a new department of Health Sector Partners and Multi-Sectoral Coordination to specifically coordinate the PPP initiative and create an enabling investment environment.

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The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), together with the Ministry of Health and the Uganda Health Federation (UHF) held the first inter-sectoral conference to discuss investment opportunities in the oil and the gas sector while highlighting the standards expected. The one-day engagement attracted 280 private sector health practitioners. 

“The sector needs to continue working extensively under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative which has already yielded results,” Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister for Health, said in her opening remarks. 

The Ministry of Health recently created a new department of Health Sector Partners and Multi-Sectoral Coordination to specifically coordinate the PPP initiative and create an enabling investment environment.

A joint technical working group is also in place to plan, research, enhance capacity development, monitor and evaluate PPP activities to harness development initiatives with the other sectors of the economy including oil and gas.

Aceng also informed the conference participants that the ministry prepared a comprehensive policy and strategy on Emergency Medical Services which is before Cabinet. This was done to allay fears around Uganda’s preparedness for emergency medical services. Certification of emergency medical service workers has also been incorporated into the strategy.

“In order to improve on the quality of the output for the PPP however, I urge you to link your health information management systems to the Ministry’s to improve our planning as partners,” she said.

 Aceng said that the ministry will harness its leadership and guidance to ensure that the health sector is prepared to take advantage of the investment opportunities in the Albertine Graben. 

Ernest Rubondo, the Executive Director of the PAU emphasised the need for other sectors to be economically stimulated. He said  the high standards required of the industry should not be a hindrance to investment.

“The revenues from the sale of crude oil are not the only benefits the oil and gas industry presents. It is through the participation of other industries that lasting value will be created. Therefore, it is paramount to understand what the new opportunities are and those that can be enhanced,” he said in a statement from PAU.

The PAU is also harnessing linkages with other sectors of the economy like education, agriculture and tourism in addition to the health sector to intentionally prepare the sectors to reap the benefits from the oil and gas activities.

“We acknowledge that a lot needs to be done for the sectors to tap the opportunities; however, the journey starts with knowledge. Registration on the National Supplier Database is one of the low-hanging fruits that can be accomplished immediately in preparation,” Rubondo said.

Gideon Badagawa, the Executive Director of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) in his keynote address welcomed the engagement as timely and relevant to the private business community to guide in the preparation of viable business plans with return on investment.

“We need information that can lead to investment decisions,” he noted. He called upon the Government of Uganda to consider linking the overall investment plans for the oil and gas sector to other key sectors including health. 

The conference featured experiences from Ugandan businesses already providing health care services to the International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the Albertine Graben.

Isabella Byarugaba, the co-founder and Director at City Medicals/ City Ambulances encouraged prospective investors in the sector not to shy away because of the standards required.

Her company provides routine medical checks and ambulance services to Total Exploration and Production Uganda. They also run City Medicals, a health facility in Hoima district where Total E&P staff are treated.

Dr. Pierre Ngondara, the Chief Medical Officer at Total E&P highlighted the standards and medical evacuation process that the IOCs have undertaken.

Tom Aliti Candia, the Commissioner, Health Sector Partners and Multi-Sectoral Coordination Department at the Ministry of Health urged the participants to embrace safety, security and standards as they plan to invest in the sector.

Some of the investment opportunities include the provision of health insurance, emergency response services, training of health workers, counseling and on-site clinics.

It is expected that potential investors will understand the timing and duration of the oil and gas activities, as well as the sustainability measures that can be taken after the decline in the demand during the off-peak period of the oil and gas activities.

Participants at the conference also acquired information on identifying key interventions required to support the health service practitioners, interacted with the key stakeholders in both the health and petroleum sectors.

Prior to the conference, a joint team from the Ministry, the PAU and the UHF alongside private sector participants conducted a six-day assessment of the health facilities in the Albertine Graben and districts where the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) will pass.

The objective was to assess the readiness of the existing health facilities in the project areas to provide the required health services to the expected influx of people and to identify the gaps.

The PAU mission is to create lasting value for society and to contribute to Uganda being a sound investment destination partly through participatory linkages with other sectors of the economy.