Family docs the gatekeepers of community's well-being

Reports in the past few days have highlighted how a group of doctors at a local Sims Drive general practitioner clinic alerted the Ministry of Health (MOH) to the rise in puzzling cases of fever, rash and joint pain ("Rise in Zika cases: How doctors at Sims Drive clinic pieced puzzle together"; Tuesday).

On behalf of all family doctors and fellow Singaporeans, we thank our colleagues, Dr Lim Chien Chuan, Dr Tan May Yen and Dr Chi Wei Ming, for their quick thinking and diligence in carrying out their professional duties.

This case demonstrates the important role family doctors play in safeguarding the health and well-being of our communities.

Whether it was the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak more than 10 years ago or the recent rise in dengue and now Zika cases, family doctors have always been the first line of defence in the community.

The fast-ageing population and increasing chronic disease burden, together with emerging threats from infectious diseases, have added to the complexity of caring for our society. We need to bring the focus of our healthcare system back to the community.

As doctors caring for patients in the community as well as supporting them when they return home from the hospitals, family doctors are being called upon to take on a bigger role in our healthcare system.

Family doctors today are treating more than just the common cough and cold. They are, in fact, handling far more complex cases that require specialist skills and training.

The MOH is doing the right thing in strengthening primary care and fostering greater integration within our healthcare system to ultimately benefit patients.

The College of Family Physicians Singapore is working closely with the MOH to improve the training and support of the expanded role of the family doctor.

This will improve the health of our people as well as the cost-effectiveness of our healthcare system.

While this is just the beginning, we can count on our network of family doctors to work closely with the rest of the healthcare system and community leaders to quickly bring this Zika outbreak under control.

We are confident that, together, we can contain this threat to our community very quickly.

Lee Kheng Hock (Associate Professor)

President

College of Family Physicians Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2016, with the headline 'Family docs the gatekeepers of community's well-being'. Print Edition | Subscribe