Monday, January 18, 2010

DG Health; NST: Family doctors can improve overall services

Family doctors can improve overall services

Letters to the Editor: NST, 2010/01/18

I WOULD like to thank Datuk Seri Dr T. Devaraj for his comments in his letter ("Let GPs handle the needs of urban poor" -- NST, Jan 14).

The writer has indeed recognised the importance of family doctors in providing quality care through a primary care-led health system. I thank the writer for responding positively to the long-standing effort of the Health Ministry in making primary healthcare the thrust of the system.

We have in fact been working very hard to get the general practitioners (GPs) to double up as primary care physicians or family medicine specialists so they can serve the public better as effective gatekeepers.

And in this regard, the ministry has been working closely with the Academy of Family Physicians and other related professional bodies to encourage GPs to hook on to the relevant courses to fulfil this objective.

I will not dwell further on the issues and rationale for the setting up of the 1Malaysia Clinic, which I have already alluded to in my letter to the NST on Jan 1. Rather, I would like to draw attention to the ministry's continuous efforts at enhancing our healthcare system, including integrating the public and private health sectors.

The ministry's focus on primary healthcare will enable better utilisation of health resources and further improve the rakyat's access to family doctors -- doctors who attend to the health needs of the individuals and who understand the inter-relationships between the individual and his or her family and community, in a comprehensive manner.

The family doctor manages the individual holistically and not on a disease-based orientation.

Since the 1980s, the ministry has had many discussions and consultations with stakeholders, including healthcare provider organisations, to transform our healthcare system in line with the needs of a developed nation.

The latest series of consultations on this initiative started in August last year and is still going on. Naturally, the process of consultation and planning must take into account the needs of many stakeholders, particularly the people who are the users and beneficiaries of the healthcare system.

Many factors need to be considered, including the funding mechanism that will enable the integration, and yet not burden the people unduly.

While the ministry continues with this consultative and planning process, I urge general practitioners to take up the challenge of enhancing the noble profession of the family doctor, and at the same time, to continuously work with the government to ensure equitable healthcare for the rakyat.

TAN SRI MOHD ISMAIL MERICAN Director-General of Health, Malaysia

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