GPs can go beyond being 'jack of all trades'

With the recent sudden outbreaks of tuberculosis and Zika, we can see that general practitioners play an even more important role than infection specialists in the initial detection and reporting of communicable diseases ("Family docs the gatekeepers of community's well-being" by the College of Family Physicians Singapore; last Friday).

Raising an early red flag is absolutely critical to the successful containment of a potential outbreak. For every GP who receives praise in the news for his vigilance in detecting a disease outbreak, there are hundreds of others working diligently behind the scenes to pick up the next case of dengue, measles or pneumonia.

In line with the Ministry of Health's mission of right-siting the delivery of care, GPs have been shouldering a larger share of patients with conditions such as high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension.

In view of the escalating global threat of communicable and non-communicable diseases, and considering our rapidly ageing population, one can say that the role of GPs here needs to evolve - from being a "jack of all trades" to one specialising in three main areas, namely non-communicable diseases, communicable diseases and vaccination, and caring for the elderly. There should be consideration on how to upskill current and future GPs so they can expertly manage these areas.

Most importantly, Singaporeans have to recognise and appreciate that GPs are the real guardians in keeping us healthy and out of hospital.

Li Ze Zong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2016, with the headline 'GPs can go beyond being 'jack of all trades''. Print Edition | Subscribe