Tullow partners with FrontierMEDEX to Pioneer Localization of Medical Support
As oil companies around the world continue to look for ways to integrate into local communities by hiring more local nationals into their operations, Tullow Oil, Africa's leading independent oil company, and medical and safety expert FrontierMEDEX, a UnitedHealthcare International company, have successfully pioneered a unique model for localization in the challenging area of medical support.
In partnership with FrontierMEDEX, Tullow Oil is one of the first major gas and oil industry players to localize its medical services for remote operations, replacing its expatriate staff with local Ugandan doctors in a program that has involved intense training and transfer of skills and knowledge.
"Localization presents significant opportunities in today's oil and gas industry," said Dr. Sajjad Gill, Health and Medical manager, Tullow Uganda. "Tullow is committed to developing local capacity, but also maintaining the very highest standards of safety and care. As part of this commitment, we have partnered with FrontierMEDEX to train talented Ugandan doctors to provide medical services in our remote operation sites. We see this as part of our long term plan to develop local capacity in highly specialized and mission critical roles that ensures the future success of our business."
"Our work with Tullow Oil in Uganda is representative of the increasing need for multinational companies to be able to manage health care risk across the globe," observed Simon Stevens, executive vice president, UnitedHealth Group and president Global Health. "And, to be able to source multiple, and often challenging solutions from a single source, enables these companies to focus on their core businesses while trusting their health care partner to manage the health of their global employees."
FrontierMEDEX has been supporting Tullow's operations in Uganda since 2009, providing expatriate Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedics for seismic drilling projects in the remote Albertine Basin region of Western Uganda. These types of operations present significant medical challenges, which are exacerbated by the extreme remoteness of the sites. Much of focus is to keep the Tullow team healthy through the provision of primary health care.
Explained FrontierMEDEX Medical Director, Dr. Phil Sharples, "Like most oil industry medics, the Tullow medics are not just dealing with emergencies; their responsibility is much broader. Coughs, sickness and skin rashes will probably account for the majority of day-to-day work. Our challenge in training local Ugandan doctors was to equip them with a complete range of new skills: pre-hospital emergency paramedical skills, updating their primary health care knowledge, and giving them occupational health knowledge."
In Uganda, FrontierMEDEX equipped five local doctors with the skills, competencies and knowledge to become remote health care medical practitioners, the first to be trained in-country with accredited and advanced life-saving skills, in a project that spanned nine months. The program's goal was to leave a positive legacy in-country upon the completion of the project.
Having assessed the skill levels of each individual doctor, FrontierMEDEX planned out a three-phase training program beginning with four weeks of intensive classroom and simulated training at a training center in Kampala. This was followed by a 12-week, hands-on experience shadowing experienced remote medics at the project sites. The final phase was a clinical placement in South Africa that included undertaking an international certification in acute cardiac and trauma life support as well as aviation training. South Africa was chosen both for its excellent facilities and ability to practice complex emergency trauma work.
"They were put under immense pressure and they found it very challenging," said Dr. Sharples. "But they gave it 110 percent and weathered it very well. It was so important that we chose the right people. All of them had the right attitude, the 'I can do it' attitude. Nobody gave up."
Mentoring by experienced medics was a key part of the training experience. Each local doctor was paired with an experienced international medic, helping in the transfer of skills but also providing an important element of personal support for the doctors, all of whom were living away from their families in isolated conditions. Although the majority lived in the suburbs of the capital city of Kampala, getting to work still involved several hours of travel to the city center before a long journey to a project site. One doctor regularly embarked on a two-day trip involving both flights and buses to reach one of the Tullow facilities. With travel so difficult, the doctors undertook four week rotations, working in their local hospitals in their month off.
The FrontierMEDEX mentors themselves were riveted and inspired by the dedication of their Ugandan trainees, many of whom had never previously seen some of the equipment they were being trained to operate. This mentorship ensured that each pair grew to trust one another and to communicate openly, resulting in significant knowledge transfer.
Dr. Francis Ojok is one of the five doctors. "We now have experience that we couldn't have got from anywhere else," said Dr. Ojok. "It's the first time in Uganda that any doctor has had this advanced life-saving training. From my perspective, I am really pleased to have enhanced my cardiac knowledge and trauma skills, and to have the confidence to apply them. It's something I couldn't have dreamed of and is a gateway to a successful future."
The program also benefited the local communities. FrontierMEDEX has set up relationships with Ugandan hospitals, so that the doctors can continue to develop their skills through continued professional development. It has also arranged for Tullow's doctors to volunteer in the emergency rooms of local clinics, something which enhances their own skills but also gives local people access to medics with world-class levels of training. This arrangement will ensure the continuation of the Ugandan doctors' hands-on clinical experience and ensure their specialized skills are maintained.
The doctors have also been involved in delivering health care initiatives in the local Ugandan community, specifically focusing on preventing the spread of cholera and dengue fever following local outbreaks. For example, Tullow paramedics recently attended to individuals affected by a road traffic accident close to their base.
The model FrontierMEDEX has pioneered is now a repeatable process, recognizing that each country has its own challenges and that the detail of each solution will be different. As governments increase their demands for local employment, FrontierMEDEX is gearing up to offer the same support in other regions, planning to further develop this training plan and roll it out across other countries throughout Africa and the Middle East.
"This has been a hugely rewarding experience, balancing a robust medical solution with a commitment to social responsibility," said Dr. Sharples. "For Tullow, using local doctors has reduced costs without compromising the international standards it demands; for the local nationals who receive intensive training, a new set of skills is theirs; for the oil industry as a whole, this is a unique opportunity to leave a global legacy, one location at a time."
(The above piece is part of our continuing Perspectives series designed to highlight key products and services to our readers. This paid-for Perspective was written and edited by Risk & Insurance®
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June 1, 2013
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