The Health Facilities Regulatory Agency (HeFRA), has announced plans to embark on a nation-wide exercise, to halt the operations of unlicensed health institutions for non-compliance with the law.
Nana Otuo Acheampong, the Board Chairman of the Health Facilities Regulatory Agency, who made the announcement at a media engagement in Accra, explained that following promulgation of the Health Institutions and Facilities Act 2011, Act 829, all institutions, both public and private must now obtain a license for operation.
He said presently only a handful of facilities have heeded to the instructions under the law and were being assisted by HeFRA to complete their application forms and undergo the necessary assessment, and urged all health institutions operating in Ghana to register and obtain the requisite licenses or risk closure for non-compliance.
He explained that the Act 829 of 2011, which established HeFRA has replaced the Private Hospitals and Maternity Act of 1958, Act 9, which was later amended by the NLC Decree 395 in 1969, and used to regulate only private health facilities while the government through the National Health Service, took care of the public institutions.
He said under Section 19 of Act 829, a license issued by HeFRA must be displayed in a prominent place on the premises of the health facility, which was accessible to the public, while Section 21 of the law gave a list of offences, including owning and operating an unlicensed facility, failure to renew a license, the provision of unauthorized services in a licensed facility, and the prevention of an unauthorized person from closing down the facility.
“A contravention of Section 23 offences carries a summary conviction fine of not more than five hundred penalty units or a term of imprisonment of not more than ten years or to both,” he explained.
Nana Otuo Acheampong stated that HeFRA, has since its operation in 2012 been providing the needed education and assistance to health facilities to facilitate their registration and licensing, however some institutions had failed to heed to the bidding by being recalcitrant, hence the need to take the required actions to ensure a well regulated industry for the safety of the citizenry.
He said the Agency had not enforced the law fully because they want to give the facilities the required education and enough warning on the penalties for non-compliance before implementing sanctions.
He appealed to the media to help educate both the public and private health institutions on the importance of the requirements, and to also help in the enforcement by reporting the operation and activities of unlicensed facilities.
The HeFRA Board Chair, said going forward, “we expect to have high quality service when we visit health facilities”, and that the Agency was ready to provide the needed policing, to maintain a certain minimum standard in the country’s health institutions.
He said although there were about 33,000 health facilities in the country, only 16,000 had been validated, adding that, it was the responsibility of the State to regulate their activities just as it was with sectors such as banking and insurance to ensure quality service delivery.
Nana Otuo Acheampong mentioned some functions of the HeFRA, as spelt out in Section four of the Act 829, which states that, apart from receiving, considering and approving applications for licenses, they were to inspect both private and public health facilities.
The Agency, he said, was also expected to determine the basic and minimum equipment and personnel required for the type of services to be provided in a practice, and further regulate and monitor activities in facilities to determine the adequacy and standard of health care.
He said the HeFRA was also required to collaborate with persons or authorities to maintain professional standards in a practice; ensure regular assessment of health facilities for certification and accreditation, and achieve continual quality improvement of health care providers.
At the Board level, a Licensing Review Committee is emplaced to scrutinize applications for licenses prior to recommendations to the Board for the issuance of a license, saying a person aggrieved by a decision or an action of the Committee can petition the Board within fourteen days and the Board must respond within 30 days,” he explained.
Nana Otuo Acheampong said Ghanaians expected the HeFRA to ensure that good maintenance, effective management practice, quality sanitation and best medical services prevailed in all health facilities throughout the country.
Other members of the HeFRA Board were also present at the meeting to provide further clarification to media enquiries.