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Healthcare: Society seeks FG engagement with family physicians

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The Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria (SOFPON) has called for the intervention of government through constructive engagement with the society to improve the nation’s health outcomes.

Dr Paul Obiegbu, SOFPON President, made the call at a news conference to commemorate World Family Physicians Day on Saturday in Abuja.

He identified the specialty as the bedrock of healthcare and key to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The News Agency of Nigeria Nigeria reports that World Family Physicians Day is   commemorated annually on May 19 and the theme for 2019 is “Family doctors: Caring for you for the whole of your life”.

Obiegbu who lamented the poor health indices in the country, attributed this to  ignorance of the government and the masses about the role of family physicians in healthcare delivery.

He noted that the potentials of the specialist being the gatekeeper in health system were not fully harnessed by the populace.

According to him, in advanced world, the family physicians are the first point of call in various health facilities irrespective of disease condition as they provide comprehensive care for both the patient and their families, but in Nigeria the reverse is the case.

The president noted they are providing over 80 per cent care for patients and their entire families.

“Government should intervene via constructive engagement with the family physicians to understand and widen the scope of the role of family doctors in tertiary hospitals,

primary healthcare centres and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

“Such engagement will improve the nation’s health outcomes,” he said.

On the theme, Obiegbu identified family physicians as fulfilling the role of informing, coordinating healthcare in a continuous and comprehensive manner contrary to other healthcare professionals that specialised in a particular aspect of care.

He explained that the physician provided for individuals from early life, diet and nutrition, education through management of emergent conditions and chronic illnesses to occupational health and rehabilitation as well as wide collaboration and advocacy.

Obiegbu further described the role of the physicians as enormous, adding that they are providing palliative care for patients including children facing terminal illnesses that required multidisciplinary care.

According to him, it is vital we continue to encourage, expand and establish systems that will enhance the essential role of family medicine within the health systems.

“This can be done through constant engaging and standardising training modalities, promoting the understanding of the discipline within the profession and engaging the investment of key players in the wider world of public policy makers, economists and government.

“As family physicians, we are ideally positioned in the healthcare system to understand patients and their family and community context and as well to provide them a deeply connected, companionate and coordinated care.

“We are doctors closest to the people. And these distinguished ladies and gentlemen are for all people of all ages in every nation, from cradle to the grave,” he said.

The world family physicians day, according to him, was initiated by the World Association of Family Doctors (WONCA) in 2010 to highlight the role and contributions of family doctors in healthcare systems around the world.