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    Health ministry, partners launch electricity access tracker

    June 7, 2023 - New Vision


      The health ministry and partners have launched an energy access tracking mechanism that is expected to help the Government determine the amount and forms of electricity each health facility in the country requires to ably deliver its services.

      The Geographic Information System (GIS)-based demand assessment methodology will enable planners in the health sector to utilise the power of information technologies to integrate scattered data on the electrification of health facilities.

      Launched by the health ministry and the World Resources Institute (WRI), a global research organisation on Tuesday, the system is also expected to be used to conduct better analysis, modeling, and visualisation of the available electrification options.

      Sitra Mulepo, a senior engineer in the health infrastructure division (MoH), who was one of the architects, said the system helps the ministry not only to understand better the determinants of health facility electricity requirements, but also provide better information for evidence-based planning, strategy, and policy formulation.

      "This methodology offers the ministry an opportunity to analyse energy load profiles against several beds for different facility levels and sizes, available equipment, geographical location, population density, and travel distances to a health facility," he said during the launch of a technical note at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala.

      Mulepo added that the mechanism will also help other players, such as the energy ministry (MERD), plan, highlighting that upon the recent procurement of CT scans and oxygen plants at referral hospitals and Health Centres IV, the electricity provider needs to upgrade the existing transformers, which cannot support the machines.

      Santiago Sinclair-Lecaros, a research associate at WRI, said updated data on electrification of health facilities is scarce, but critical for decision-makers, enabling them to identify opportunities and formulate policies, strategies, plans, and programs.

      "Assessing electricity needs at the facility level is key for evidence-based decision-making and impactful electrification programs. This methodology and its results will provide more inputs towards a data-driven, integrated approach to planning for the expansion of energy services in health care," Lecaros said.

      Lecaros also advised the Government to establish a robust data and analytic foundation as a pillar for effective development interventions and enable more cross-sectoral coordination between stakeholders in health care, energy, and planning.

      Besides the health ministry, other stakeholders include MERD, the local government ministry, and district local governments. ; ;

      Data-driven planning

      Representing director of curative services Dr Olara Charles, commissioner of health infrastructure at the health ministry Eng. George Otim said the health ministry can barely deliver preventive, curative, palliative, and rehabilitative health services to the people without enough electricity.

      Electricity is required to operate equipment used to carry out disease diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and therapy; as well as hospital support services like water supply, space heating and air conditioning, laundry, and sterilisation, oxygen generation, medical waste incineration, ICT services for communication and data management.

      While Uganda's national electrification rate stands at 45%, the rural electrification rate is estimated at 25%. This, Otim said, adversely affects the health sector, because approximately 96% of the healthcare facilities from health centers II to IV are located in rural areas.

      According to the ministry, 6.6% of health centres (HC) IV, 28% (HCs III), and 54.5% (HCs II) are not connected to grid electricity.

      The health ministry is using solar power for facilities where grid electricity is not accessible for lighting, operating essential medical equipment, fridges, computers; and power backups in health facilities.

      "Although government and development partners have over the last 20 years implemented solar electrification projects that have improved access to electricity (for lighting and operation of essential medical equipment) in lower level health facilities, the key challenge was how to determine the energy requirements for the different levels of healthcare amidst limited or lack of well-documented energy sources, utilisation and usage data," Otim said.

      He also called for a continued multi-sectoral approach to ensure coordinated mobilization of resources and capacity building for energy planning and implementation.


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