By Stephen Macharia
The Kenya Health Professions Oversight Authority (KHPOA) has promised increased pace in regulation of health training, professions, health facilities, and services through improved coordination and oversight in the regulatory ecosystem.
KHPOA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr Jackson Kioko says the Authority will serve as a lightning rod for all existing gaps hindering delivery of quality health services to Kenyans, allaying concerns that KHPOA may create new bureaucratic processes in the health regulation.
The CEO assures health professionals of “an improved regulation system” in Kenya where all regulatory agencies in health, “will work independently as they have been doing” noting KHPOA’s role is “to ascertain regulators do not compromise health standards in the country”.
Dr Kioko acknowledges the existence of sound regulation in Kenya’s health sector placing current policies and regulators as among the best in the Eastern Africa region. The CEO, however, cites lack of decent investments in followup activities by independent regulatory agencies as the greatest breaking force in delivery of quality health services as outlined in the Constitution of Kenya (2010).
Dr Kioko believes health regulators are doing a good job in securing the efficacy of health services in Kenya. Absent in the regulatory environment, he says, are supervisory powers to prod regulators to implement self-made recommendations, especially from inspectorate activities.
To address that, KHPOA “has developed an inspection calendar for the regulators. This is meant to ensure that respective health regulatory bodies adhere to their calendar of events,” Dr Kioko, who is also the Director of Medical Services at MoH, disclosed.
“KHPOA is here to address such gaps and make health services in the country among the best in the world,” Dr Kioko offers a quintessential take on the import the organization conveys to Kenya’s health regulatory framework. KHPOA is an offspring the Kenya Health Act after it became effective in September 2017.
The Act collated several health-related laws hitherto disintegrated in a myriad of documents and created KHPOA to facilitate the implementation of the Health Policy and address gaps in the management of human resource for health, emergency health care, service delivery, coordination of health regulatory bodies and regulation of health products and technologies.
The core functions of KHPOA include; maintaining a duplicate register of all health professionals in the public sector; promote and regulate inter-professional liaison between statutory regulatory bodies; coordinate joint inspections with all regulatory bodies; and facilitate dispute resolution mechanisms of complaints from patients, aggrieved parties, and regulatory bodies.
Other functions include continuous monitoring of the execution of respective mandates and functions of regulatory bodies recognized under an Act of Parliament; arbitrate disputes between statutory regulatory bodies, including conflict or dispute resolution amongst Boards and Councils; and ensure regulators do not compromise standards of health delivery.
“This Authority will improve the overall patient health care experience by ensuring an efficient, reliable, and high-quality health care delivery system with acceptable standards and norms. Moreover, health regulatory Boards and Councils will be required to enforce compliance to the respective codes of professional conduct and ethical practice.
“This will ensure health professionals perform and discharge their duties and responsibilities in a manner that promotes the respect for human rights, treating every person with dignity, and respect to privacy in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the Health Act 2017,” KHPOA says.
Already, the Authority has shrugged off its infancy stage in under two years of operation to record major milestones in Kenya’s health sector regulation. Last year, amid unprecedented threat to public health due to the COVID-19 pandemic, KHPOA coordinated countrywide joint inspections of health facilities. As a result, the Ministry of Health (MoH) now has a database of all health facilities and their spatial distribution. “This will inform policy and planning,” Dr Kioko says.
The KHPOA CEO adds that through the joint inspections reached 11, 486 health facilities in the country, representing 98.5% of the registered facilities in the country. Proceeding from the inspections, about 9067 health facilities were gazetted to operate various levels of healthcare provision. While 7,786 health facilities maintained their categorizations, 288 health facilities were upgraded.
On the flipside, 1000 facilities were downgraded for various reasons ranging from understaffing to inadequate medical equipment. Inspectors shut about 1,300 health facilities closed. The CEO says plans are underway to introduce star rating model for health facilities in Kenya as the Authority strengthens its footprint in changing delivery of health services.