International law firm assists Qatar’s public-private projects

by  — 7 November 2012

International Law Firm Pinsent Masons has been operating in the Gulf region for more than three decades, and in Doha their lawyers have been working on major infrastructure projects, energy projects and in the financial services sector. Erika Widén spoke to James Elwen, partner and head of Pinsent Masons office in Doha about how the firm has worked closely with the Qatari public and private sector, and why Qatar should enact laws to protect health data.

How has Pinsent Masons been working closely with Qatari clients and their business over the past 10 years?

Lawyers in the Doha office have been working on major infrastructure projects, upstream and downstream energy projects and a diverse range of assignments in the financial services sector. The Doha office is conscious of the need to be active on the ground, and attentive to the changing landscape and priorities of Qatar and its community, bringing its experience in many other sectors, such as healthcare and insurance. In these sectors, we take time out and organise meetings with key stakeholders and participants to share knowledge and better understand the local market’s particular needs. In support of the educational and learning needs of Qatar, we look to arrange thought provoking and expert seminars and roundtables, and the firm also has a great interest in continuing its work with the Faculty of Law at Qatar University to assist in the development of young and talented Qatari lawyers, including work experience in our offices here in Doha
and internationally.

How has Pinsent Masons worked with the public and private sectors to help develop some of the first public-private partnership (PPP) models?

We have been able to take our expertise and apply it to many international jurisdictions, where public and private clients have been seeking ways of working together to share the risk and reward of major infrastructure projects. We have also developed significant expertise in all the related areas of law including procurement, planning, dispute resolution, environmental law and real estate. As well as having been involved in negotiating and drafting the first PPP hospital contracts in the United Kingdom (UK) from scratch, we have also advised governments in the Gulf including Kuwait on its first PPP healthcare project. Our key sectors of work have included urban regeneration, sports stadia and athletes’ accommodation, ports and harbours, schools and education, healthcare, housing, prisons, hotels, waste management, water and wastewater, roads and transport.

Can you elaborate more in regards to Pinsent Manson’s expertise in the energy industry?

Pinsent Masons’ expertise dates back decades to our role in advising the UK government on the privatisation of the UK energy industry. Since then, we have built an international practice, which spans the whole spectrum of the energy industry, from oil supermajors and utilities to independent developers, equipment suppliers and financiers. We have been involved in some of the world’s largest oil and gas infrastructure projects from the outset of the project lifecycle through to dispute avoidance and dispute resolution.

Can you talk little more about Pinsent Masons’ professional and financial services practice?

In Qatar, we are able to support Qatar’s initiatives to grow the financial services sector that is so important to a thriving diversified economy. As well as transactional legal support such as bond issues, we can advise commercial agreements and structures as well as the application of rules and regulations of the Qatar regulators, including those of the Qatar Financial Centre. We can also provide ‘healthchecks’ to help businesses in managing risk and to assess the status of compliance. Our expertise includes banking, asset management, insurance and healthcare.

The Healthcare sector is a key focus of your practice. Why is this important for Qatar?

Human development is a pillar of the Qatar Vision 2030. As part of this development, the government has developed a National Health Strategy through to 2016. This is a priority area for Qatar. The delivery of such plans around the world has proven to be very challenging and expensive. The healthcare sector is a key focus of our business, where we have worked with both governments and the private sector across the world in the planning for and securing of solutions and successful outcomes in wide ranging healthcare assignments. We think we can assist in helping in the successful planning and implementation, sharing our knowledge and experience. We can advise on on legislative and regulatory frameworks, infrastructure development and financing projects, privatisations, joint ventures, and other commercial partnerships with a deep understanding of the critical areas of patient confidentiality and ethical requirements, as well as cross-border implications which are increasingly at the heart of medical research, education, diagnosis and treatment.

PwC and Pinsent Masons recently organised a roundtable seminar to explore an e-health strategy as part of the National Health Strategy 2011-1016 to consider enacting laws that will ensure adequate protection of health data. What main points were discussed during the seminar and what was the outcome?

Security and rights connected with health data is obviously a critical area for the international and national governments to address, and this was discussed at some length. Globalisation of healthcare is such that health information is likely to be moving across the world to secure the best standards of care. Accurate data is also key to ensure that the right information is available to provide the right treatment. Having the most appropriate data protection laws and regulations that are consistent with international standards and which can facilitate the best healthcare, preventing unreasonable transfer and holding of data abroad, is a paramount issue – this was recognised by the participants at the e-Health roundtable. However, there is also a need to ensure the international standards are reviewed and debated – Qatar is already renowned for its thought leadership in such areas of international significance.

Why is ensuring protection of e-health strategy data important and why does Qatar need it? What are the wide range of opportunities the e-health initiative has to offer?

The high cost associated with the use of a static network of surgeries and hospitals as the primary means of assessing and treating minor ailments or health related queries is driving a rapid expansion in the adoption of e-health and m-health solutions. By providing healthcare services over the telephone and via the Internet, a mix of clinical and non-clinical staff, based in a small number of centralised locations, can be used to triage, monitor, advise and onward refer non-emergency patients. In order to operate on that remote access basis, clinicians and information technology (IT) providers have to work closely together, and must have access to advanced clinical algorithms and a suitable patient management system. Having met the needs of the patient and generated a large amount of personal information, which will typically be very sensitive in nature, a number of issues arise. For example, the need to ensure that the data retained is made available for use by other healthcare professionals who subsequently treat the patient, potentially in an emergency situation.

What are the challenges associated with the cross-border/no-border nature of e-health as a concept?

A number of key challenges exist in relation to the gathering, maintenance and use of data in a cross-border environment. For example, the need to take account of the specific characteristics of a local population, for instance recognition that healthcare service provided by staff based outside a given region is less likely to be able to identify certain conditions that are perhaps localised or more prevalent in that region than elsewhere. Similarly, the need to understand local custom and sensitivities in relation to particular types of ailment or an unwillingness to discuss sensitive issues with someone who is unknown, or of the opposite gender.

What other seminars does Pinsent Masons have on their agenda and why are those seminars important?

We are continually looking to provide the highest quality of roundtables and seminars in support of the Qatar Vision 2030 and where the market and our clients are interested in well-informed debate – we see healthcare as a particularly exciting but challenging area, so we will look to deliver more meetings in particular areas of interest, as we are also doing in other areas of focus for us such as construction, energy and financial services – they must critically be relevant and targeted towards the special requirements of Qatar.

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