On March 12th 2020, Kenya confirmed its first case of coronavirus triggering the country into a response and preparedness mode. In its regulatory and advisory capacity, KMPDC was mobilized through the Ministry of health 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.
Evidenced by the spreading pandemic in the counties, the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Health, Sen. Mutahi Kagwe, rapidly constituted a national team of experts under the leadership of KMPDC Chair, 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. The Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Yumbya, was the Secretariat Head. “KMPDC was a key player in supporting the COVID National Task force and providing vital technical information to inform the government COVID-19 response strategies,” says Jean Mathenge, the Council’s Consultant and also the Lead Coordinator and Chief Rapporteur of the technical exercise.
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. “With Data based evidence showing that the outbreaks in the various counties were through inter/intra county importation of the virus, it was acknowledged that some counties were stretched to adequately cope with the public- health emergency due to various limitations in health physical, financial and health resourcing, and technical and expertise knowledge of the novel virus,” says Mathenge.
The exercise, according to Mathenge, identified key challenges such as limited health infrastructure, delayed laboratory test results, and inadequate supply of testing kits. In fact, the lack of fully equipped lab services, timely testing and reliable transportation, including long turnaround times for sample collection and results was seen as a weak link in management of the pandemic It also cited infections among health workers and extreme understaffing in the public healthsector as major challenges in Kenya’s ability to tackle COVID-19.
One of the key activities of the exercise was an assessment of the availability and reliable supply of high-quality oxygen whether by gas cylinders, liquid oxygen tanks through central oxygen piping system, concentrators or liquid oxygen plants. The findings necessitated the formation of a task force to formulate policy and strategic mechanisms to enhance adequate availability and reliable supply of oxygen, a critical component in the treatment of pandemic cases.
Mathenge further says that the team embarked on capacity building on rapid response, multi-agency team mobilization, management and supplies of essential medicines, communication and publicity, monitoring and evaluation, and risk management. “With Scientific evidence demonstrating that quarantine, social distancing, and isolation of infected populations help in containing the epidemic, the team assessed 290 facilities in 47 counties,” Mathenge says. “We found out that about 47 percent of the assessed facilities needed significant upgrading to effectively handle the pandemic.”
The team also trained health workers on referral system to health facilities when the need arises, criteria for determining recovery and discharge of patients. Anticipating a surge in COVID-19 cases, the team 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.
Mathenge opines that the pandemic hastened upgrading of healthcare facilities across the counties adding that the response by the government has greatly improved health systems that will be useful post-COVID-19.
The country also improved its ICU beds to 826 as at 30 th 0f October 2020 an improvement from 153 that existed in March before the onset of Covid-19. Over 15,600 isolation beds have so far been identified nationally and 272 facilities licensed by KMPDC as infectious Disease.
Treatment Centers. Kenya has so far experienced better epidemiological outcomes than many countries outside the African continent, an evidence that could be cited to government’s stringent response; which Mathenge says, was science based. “The government commissioned several studies that have informed policy and response. The data collected will serve to inform many other decisions in the future.
This approach has also ushered in an enhanced era of data driven policy and strategy formulation. I think we are headed into the right direction,” she notes with optimism. KMPDC’s role in COVID-19 mitigation measures cannot be gainsaid. As the regulator in medical and dental practice, KMPDC lived up to its mantra and stepped up activities in a bid to guarantee delivery of quality health services.