Your Letters

Enhance image of family physicians, put in place viable business model

Our health system has always been centred around tertiary and acute care.

In the newly announced integrated healthcare clusters, the facilities are centred around acute hospitals rather than polyclinics.

Group chief executive officers are not trained in primary care work. Many young medical students and residents are also discouraged by their families from taking up family medicine.

Singaporeans often prefer to see a specialist, skipping the primary care physician.

Specialists in the hospitals who are not able to solve the medical issues will internally refer to other sub-specialist colleagues. This raises healthcare costs, as well as reduces the importance and role of family physicians.

The general practitioner (GP) landscape is also a diverse one. Some GPs see mainly patients with company contracts, others see mainly acute conditions, and some practise aesthetic medicine. Few concentrate on seeing elderly folk with chronic conditions.

This infrastructure, leadership and the society's perception need to change. Hence, I was delighted to read that Singapore is building up the number of family physicians and broad-based specialists (Push for more docs in community care; March 6).

It is a timely decision to encourage more primary care doctors to become family physicians. These doctors are well-equipped to look after a whole repertoire of conditions in the community.

Besides training, there should be formal recognition of these physicians so as to enhance their image and give the public confidence in seeing them.

There should also be a viable business model put in place for them to thrive. Dedicated funds should be set aside to subsidise patients and encourage them to keep seeing the family physicians.

Family physicians should be grouped together under one roof, such as in a family medical clinic, so they can share resources and work as a team to discuss the best approach to managing complex patients.

Economies of scale can also be achieved and more affordable service offered.

Leong Choon Kit (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 12, 2017, with the headline 'Enhance image of family physicians, put in place viable business model'. Print Edition | Subscribe