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Dr Daniel Yumbya: Long-serving medical safety champion who never says die

Health & Science
 Medical practitioners and Dentists Board C.E.O Daniel Yumbya during an interview at the Head office in Nairobi in 2016. [File, Standard]

Daniel Munyao Yumbya could perfectly fit the description of a man with a never-say-die attitude.

With a public service career spanning three decades, he stands tall for raising standards and shaping up medical regulation.

As the founding CEO of the Kenya Practitioners and Dentists Council, Dr Yumbya built from scratch an important agency that would carry out out the all-import function of ensuring efficiency and patient safety. For the years he has was at the helm of the medical regulator, Dr Yumbya says enhanced access, safety and high quality of healthcare provision were not debatable.

Today, having recently retired from the council late last year and with the benefit of hindsight, he says determination and focus was the magic wand.

He says he stands tall for ensuring safety despite the evolving complexity in healthcare systems. "My most beloved philosophy is always trying to leave a place better than I found it. I take great pride in having contributed to the strengthening of medical regulation not just in Kenya but regionally," Dr Yumbya tells The Standard.

Having joined the council in April 1999 from the Health ministry's Protocol Office when it was at a formative stage, he is credited with mobilising resources for the purchase of a plot and construction of an office complex for the council in Hurlingham, Nairobi. Initially, he says, the council had a two-roomed office at Afya House. He also set up regional officers to ensure compliance of doctors and health institutions.

Not only, Dy Yumbya was instrumental in the development of critical national health policy documents, including Kenya's first patients' rights charter. He was part of the team that crafted the code of professional conduct for doctors, professional development guidelines, training and quality assurance standards, together with regional guidelines for inspection and recognition of medical schools and teaching hospitals in EAC states.

At the height of the Covid-19 crisis in March 2020, Dr Yumbya led Kenya's national command centre for quarantine and isolation, which raised isolation beds from eleven in March 2022 to more than 7,000. "That time, there was panic across the country. We had to do our best with the little resources we have together with the other stakeholders to contain the situation," he says.

Even after leaving the council, his passion for the health sector could not allow him to hang his boots just yet. He was nominated by Machakos Governor Wavinya Ndeti to serve as the county Health executive. The assembly approved him.

"There's still a lot more than we have to do as country to get to where we want. The journey towards an effective healthcare regime must not stop. Because Health is a devolved function, counties have to do a lot more to revolutionize the sector," he says.

He says it was a good idea to devolve the Health docket. "It's was a timely idea, only that the human resource function of the sector should have remained with the national government. "Even training should have remained with the central government which would then deploy doctors according to needs of counties and also take care of their training needs," he says.

And to end the quacks menace in the medical practice, he says county authorities should work with regulators on assessment and vetting. "More joint inspections would rid the sector of dangerous breaches. Most importantly inspection should be local. Counties should not expect inspection teams to come from Nairobi all the time to sort out the mess at the local level. We should begin to see more collaborations to weed out quacks," he says.

His contribution has equally been felt regionally. In 2017, Dr Yumba served as the chairman of the membership committee of the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities, a global agency that seeks to promote effective medical regulation worldwide by guiding the medical profession and supporting best practice, innovation, collaboration, and knowledge sharing in the interest of public safety.

He says over the years, he has heavily relied on his knowledge derived from various trainings. "I have attended various engagements on curriculum development, clinical assessment, regulation of best practices in medicine and dentistry, and inspection and accreditation of training institutions to improve standards in Kenya," he says.

Born in Kathiani, Machakos County, on January 30, 1960, the father of three says he has left the council a better place than he found it 23 years go. "Now it takes three minutes to renew a licence unlike when it took several weeks," Yumba tells The Sunday Standard.

"Now the council has its own ultra-modern premises and a strong competent staff," he said when handing over to new CEO David Kariuki in September last year. KMPDC chair Eva Njenga and council members recognised his contribution.

Dr Yumbya has an honorary doctorate from Mt Kenya University and a Master's Degree in Business Administration from Edith Cowan University in Australia. He is pursuing PhD in management sciences, with a research focus on Health Workforce Regulation in private and public practice.

President Uhuru Kenyatta honoured him with the award of Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS) on December 12, 2018, as well as the Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear (EBS) on December 12, 2021 for his role in shaping up the country's healthcare.

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