By:Business Quest Reporter’;
Established under the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act (Chapter 253 Laws of Kenya), the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC), is mandated to regulate the training and practice of medicine, dentistry and community oral health, as well as regulate all health facilities within the Republic of Kenya.
The Council also serves as an advisory to the National and County Governments and the Ministry of Health.
As a health regulator, KMPDC has been working tirelessly to ensure the health services Kenyans get are top notch.
Among the things the Council continues to work on are amendments to the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act (Cap 253 Laws of Kenya). The last amendments came into effect on the 17th of May, 2019.
According to KMPDC’s Chief Executive Officer Daniel Yumbya, the amendments have not only given the Council more regulatory and enforcement powers but have also ensured patients’ safety through the introduction of a Professional Indemnity Cover (PIC).
“Something that is also commendable in the Act is that health facilities and practitioners have now been compelled by law to have a Professional Indemnity Cover (PIC) before they renew their yearly licenses,” said Mr. Yumbya. “This cover ensures that in case a practitioner or health facility is found culpable of a malpractice and are asked to pay the complainant for damages, it is covered, and the complainant will be paid without issue.”
Other than that, the amendments to the Act have taken into consideration the quacks menace in Kenya and in an effort to protect patients, stiffer penalties for anyone masquerading as a doctor, have been introduced.
The penalties set for such persons is a fine not exceeding five million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.
Health facilities have not been left behind. The Act stipulates that persons in charge of health facilities who hire unlicensed practitioners or quacks or operate health facilities that have not been licensed or registered commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding ten million shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both.
The Council has gone a step further and updated a register of all licensed practitioners and health facilities on its website www.kmpdc.go.ke to protect unsuspecting Kenyans and ensure patients know if the person treating them is indeed a doctor and if a health facility is licensed to operate.
“Our job is to ensure Kenyans get quality healthcare as we strive to protect patients from fraudulent people. That is why we saw it necessary to share the list of licensed practitioners and health facilities and make them easily available for the public should they need to ascertain the credentials of the person treating them. I encourage Kenyans to be on the lookout for quacks because not everyone calling themselves “doctor” is one,” said Mr. Yumbya.
As a precaution, Mr. yumbya affirms that; “The register furnishes members of the public with a list of all practitioners licensed by the Council to operate within any given year. If one is claiming to be a doctor but their name is not on our register, then you know that they’re either a quack or have not been licensed to operate.
The same applies to health facilities. We encourage members of the public to report to us should they suspect one is either operating without a license as this is illegal, or if one is a quack.”
Lodging a complaint against a doctor or health facility
Another mandate of KMPDC is disciplinary proceedings. Patients can lodge a complaint against a health facility or a doctor, should they feel that they did not receive quality healthcare.
The Council, through the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee (DEC) then conducts inquiries on professional misconduct, medical/dental malpractice, overcharging, patient mismanagement, patient abandonment among others.
Mr. Yumbya says that the Council has cumulatively received a total of 1,257 complaints, since the first case was reported to KMPDC in 1997. About 1,132 cases have been concluded while only a paltry 125 cases are under investigation.
“Once the Council’s Legal Department receives a complaint from a patient, a patient’s relative or caregiver, the Office of the Ombudsman or even the media, the complaint is shared with the practitioner or health institution being accused, to give them a chance to respond to the allegations. The complaint and the response are then tabled before the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee (DEC) for discussion in their next scheduled meeting,” said Mr. Yumbya.
The Council has moved a step further and made it easier for a complainant to lodge a complaint.
One can now easily download the complaint form from the Council’s website www.kmpdc.go.ke on the “PUBLIC” tab, which also explains the procedure of lodging such complaints.
Once the form is filled, the same can be sent to the Council together with documents indicated in the complaint form to the email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Council’s Disciplinary and Ethics Committee also has other roles like: conducting Inquiries into complaints submitted to it, regulating professional conduct, ensuring fitness to practice and operate, promoting mediation and arbitration between parties and at its own liberty, recording and adopting mediation agreements or compromise between parties, on the terms agreed among others.
Fight against the Covid-19 pandemic
The Council has also played a very critical role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. In its regulatory and advisory capacity, through the Ministry of Health, KMPDC was mobilised to assist in national coordination, compilation of action and implementation plans to curb the deadly virus as the government continued to review and implement more measures to curtail the pandemic nationally. This saw the council put in charge of quarantine and isolation facilities in the country.
“Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health, Sen. Mutahi Kagwe, constituted a national team of experts under the leadership of our Chairperson Dr. Eva Njenga in July 2020, to provide technical assistance to all 47 counties with a view to enhance the county governments’ pandemic preparedness and response mechanisms. I was the Secretariat Head,” said Mr. Yumbya further adding that KMPDC played a key role in supporting the COVID National Task force and providing vital technical information to inform the government on COVID-19 response strategies.
In collaboration with the County Health Management Teams, the technical experts’ team conducted a countrywide exercise of health facilities in each county, to establish the counties’ capacities to effectively manage the coronavirus cases when presented,” Mr. yumbya reveals.
The team also trained health workers on referral system to health facilities when the need arises, criteria for determining recovery and discharge of patients.
The crew also disseminated and supported the roll out of Home-Based Isolation and Care guidelines to provide an alternative solution in the management of the increasing numbers of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients which will serve to decongest health facilities in the country.
“Our role in COVID-19 mitigation measures cannot be gainsaid. As the regulator in medical and dental practice, KMPDC continues to live up to its mantra, stepping up activities in a bid to guarantee delivery of quality health services in the country despite the pandemic,” he adds.
As we all remember, on the 22nd of March 2020, the Cabinet Secretary of Health issued a directive that abolished self-quarantine and in turn instituted mandatory quarantine for all individuals returning to the country.
This directive came into effect on the same day wherein over 2000 people underwent mandatory preventive quarantine for a duration of fourteen (14) days at several identified quarantine facilities.
Cognisant of this, the Kenyan Government set up the National Coordination Centre for Quarantine and Isolation Facilities domiciled at the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Council.
This coordination centre was tasked with the specific mandate to coordinate the management of COVID-19 quarantine and isolation centres within Nairobi Metropolitan and beyond.
Following the lock-down and curfew that was put in place by the government, the Council also designed special passes for essential services providers (including doctors) to ensure they deliver services without interruption.
The pandemic gains
When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kenya, the number of people going to health facilities to seek treatment dropped as Kenyans shunned hospitals due to fears of contracting the virus from the said institutions.
This made the Council to move swiftly to respond to this growing concern by looking into ways of ensuring patients still got quality healthcare from their healthcare providers despite the prevailing circumstances.
“We therefore commenced the issuance of provisional approvals for various registered and licensed health institutions to offer virtual medical services. The Council issued approvals to about 20 hospitals to offer telemedicine services in the country by then,” said Mr. Yumbya. “This year, we have increased the scope to give annual licenses to registered and licensed health facilities that want to offer virtual health services.”
The move by the Council to approve the facilities to offer telemedicine is a response to a growing need for the services due to physical distancing rules imposed by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Even before the pandemic hit the country, KMPDC had already developed e-Health guidelines back in 2019, and shared the same with the relevant government authorities for approval and subsequent gazettement. The rules will offer a base for the full roll out of telemedicine services in Kenya.
“The Council works tirelessly to ensure that we are an an efficient, effective and accessible world class health regulatory body. In our efforts to learn best practices and promote the provision of quality healthcare in the country, we are part of international, continental and regional bodies that help promote the above-mentioned practices in the regulation of healthcare,” says the KMPDC CEO.
“These include the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities, the Association of Medical Councils of Africa, the East African Communities Medical and Dental Boards/Councils among others. These associations offer support to regulatory authorities, including KMPDC by promoting high standards of medical education, registration and regulation, through scientific, educational, and collaborative activities.” Mr. Yumbya concludes.