Sat | Apr 29, 2017

Tomorrow is World Family Doctor Day

Published:Monday | May 18, 2015 | 5:03 AM

General practitioners/family practitioners/primary-care physicians form the hub, the core, the centre, the essential support for all the medical sciences.

Like spokes in a wheel, specialist services radiate outwards to play their part. But, obviously, they all must connect with, and come back to, the solid centre - the very heart of medicine, the general practitioners/family practitioners/primary-care physicians.

It takes a really 'good' and 'bright' doctor to practise as a general practitioner/family practitioner/primary-care physician. It is extremely demanding and requires a width and breadth of knowledge and experience that no other branch of medicine can claim.

In developed countries, the Government and insurance companies place the care and management of all patients squarely in the hands of general practitioners/family practitioners/primary-care physicians. Specialist doctors, hospitals and care centres always refer to the primary-care doctor. This system of harmonic teamwork ensures optimal patient care.

Sadly, in Jamaica, feedback to general practitioners/family practitioners/primary-care physicians from most hospitals and many specialist physicians never occurs, so there is little or no appropriate follow-up and monitoring. And, those patients who choose to go directly to some types of specialists forget that they are seeing doctors who are trained in one particular field of medicine. Important problems may be missed simply because specialists are doing their job well, but by the same token, they can only do their job well. Anything else is outside his/her scope.

Primary-care physicians, family doctors/general practitioners constitute the ever-vigilant sentinels against all forms of illness. We are the first line of defence and the first wave of attack against diseases. We are the general managers of patient care. We see anything and everything.

When a patient enters the office of a primary-care physician, the doctor can expect to deal with a multitude of multisystem problems - from the hair on their scalp to the skin of the soles of their feet and any and everything in-between, including matters affecting the mind. We get asked about absent and distant relatives and even about care for sick pets.

Health is not just confined to the absence of physical disease; it also encompasses mental and social well-being. One of the most challenging aspects of family practice comes about when a physician plays the role of mediator, peacemaker, motivator, lobbyist, adviser and even a pastor of sorts. Because of this, family doctors often become a part of many families and share their emotional roller-coaster rides through life. That, coupled with the awesome responsibilities of having to deal with everything, ostensibly led WONCA to declare World Family Doctor Day in Cancun, Mexico onMay 19, 2010.

WONCA is the abbreviated acronym for the World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians. This year, the Jamaica chapter of the Caribbean College of Family Physicians and the General Practitioners Association of Jamaica, along with the Family Medicine Unit at UWI, Mona, Campus, have combined their efforts to honour, recognise and celebrate the essential work that general practitioners/family practitioners/primary-care physicians do for the health care of all people around the world.

The series of events culminates with a free Family Doctors Fair tomorrow, Tuesday, May 19 at Mandela Park in Half-Way Tree from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with an official opening ceremony at 9:30 a.m. The health fair features National Health Fund-sponsored mammograms, ECGs, blood sugar screening, National Family Planning Board-sponsored HIV tests and more.

With more than $500,000 in sponsorship, the NHF occupies the 'sponsors to the world' category, while our platinum category goes to the Bank of Nova Scotia and the KSAC (with over $100,000). Additionally, the KSAC waived all their fees. The and the advertised the event for free. The event is under the patronage of Mayor of Kingston, Senator Angela Brown Burke. Parking will be available, and all are invited.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.