HeFRA Registrar, Dr Philip Bannor

Registrar of the Health Facilities Regulatory Agency (HeFRA), Dr. Philip Bannor, has called for a concerted effort towards improving access to standardized health care delivery in Ghana.

Through strategic partnerships with international not-for-profit organizations like PharmAccess Group, Dr Bannor says HeFRA is working hard to finish the 'decentralization journey' making sure that the regional offices can provide support by monitoring other facilities in the region.

According to him, there are plans to continue improving the processes and a continued partnership with PharmAccess, a name that is, “strongly linked to healthcare standards, and access to quality care.”

He noted that PharmAccess engages and partners with the right stakeholders, helping HeFRA to achieve the strategic goal of access to quality of care in Ghana.

"When it comes to our health care, all people want to know how and where we can receive the best possible care, but the absence of data to enable citizens to make informed health-seeking decisions is a source of worry," Dr Bannor added.

For Dr. Phillip Bannor, the problem stems from the lack of a singular national system that assesses all health care providers through the same set of standards.

“This leaves citizens choosing their doctors based on advertisements rather than data," he added.

It is against this backdrop to help manage and collect that vital data, that HeFRA launched a Mobile Online Information System (MOIS). Among other things, this platform collects and organises information on every step of the inspection to license pipeline. 

Dr. Bannor says that before opening a health facility in Ghana, HeFRA is required to carry out an inspection and provide a license confirming the facility reaches acceptable safety and quality requirements.

HeFRA also inspects the availability of certified staff and ensures everyone who operates medical equipment has the necessary license.

HeFRA, therefore, plays a critical role in establishing a health system in Ghana that is well-functioning and safe for those that visit or work in health facilities.

"I don't know where I would be without data. We would never want to go back to the slow, paper-based system of the past," Dr Baffour admitted.

HeFRA hopes to integrate information systems with other health and government agencies, further expanding its potential.

"Whether you are dealing with diabetes, cardiac issues, or search for an obstetrician, you need access to objective information on where to find the true expert," he added.

Once this information becomes publicly available, Dr. Bannor believes competition will increase, and the level of care will improve alongside it. 

"One area where we have already seen the value of data has been throughout the Covid crisis."

Dr. Bannor said that they have already been surprised by some data insights. During the height of the pandemic in Ghana, they expected an increase in demand for hospital resources, however, there was a decrease.

HeFRA found through their collection of data that many people were avoiding or postponing visits to hospitals and clinics. "That is why you need data," says Dr. Bannor, “to inform the government of what they need to do.”

Apart from digitalization, data collection, and access to information, Dr. Bannor has worked vigorously to make the organization more efficient to reduce bottlenecks. 

HeFRA can potentially regulate over 13,000+ facilities in the country, and until a few years ago, much of the work and decision-making was concentrated between their head office and a few smaller regional offices.

To improve the workflow, Dr. Bannor opened additional regional offices and decentralized its decision-making process. With more eyes and ears in the field, monitoring becomes better manageable, limited resources are spent more effectively, and communication lines are shortened. Dr. Bannor also worked on formalizing and harmonizing assessment standards that were used by different health agencies in the country. 

PharmAccess supported this 'efficiency journey' with a detailed management review, evaluating whether management systems were performing as intended and producing the desired results as efficiently as possible.

"A tedious job, for which we are very thankful," says Dr. Bannor. 

Looking at the future, Dr. Bannor hopes that Ghana will soon be able to match its demand for health care with quality providers. 

"Imagine you are struggling with mental health issues, and you feel that no one is taking care of you at a moment you really need it. It means you will lose the trust in the system."

To solve this, he said it is time to broaden the availability of care by giving more leeway to the private sector.

The HeFRA boss said: "The private sector can fill a gap and help us, ensuring that people do not have to wait long to receive care. But evidently, quality assessments remain critical, and we need to assess private facilities with the same standards as used in the public sector."

PharmAccess focuses on the root causes that hamper health care financing and investments towards equitable and quality health care in sub-Saharan Africa. It works as an innovator and catalyst for pragmatic solutions that can be adopted, adapted, and scaled by partners.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.