Need for More Family Medicine Specialists

More family medicine specialists are being trained to beef up primary health care and reduce congestions in hospitals.

Health Director-General, Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said there were now 238 family medicine specialists in health clinics and 70 in university hospitals.

“We still don’t have enough of these specialists and we hope more doctors will pursue a course in family medicine,” he said after the launch of the Primary Care Mini Conference 2014 held in conjunction with World Family Doctors’ Day on 30th May 2014.

Dr Noor Hisham said with the small numbers of such specialists, their services were only available in 25% of the 900 health clinics nationwide.
Each year, the ministry offers 60 post-graduate scholarships for doctors in the government service to pursue a Master in Family Medicine specialisation, a four-year programme in local Universities.

Dr Noor Hisham said the failure rate, however, was high due to the depth and wide spectrum of fields to cover.

“Half of them failed the course and had to resit,” he said, adding that the training of the specialists was part of the 1Care health care transformation efforts to provide better care in the community and reduce congestions in hospitals.

“The presence of family medicine specialists helps to improve the quality of services in health clinics, with services such as laboratory services, diagnostic imaging and specialist-category drugs.

“Services in health clinics will also be broadened to include community mental health, community-based rehabilitation for children with special needs and methadone replacement therapy for recovering drug addicts.”

Prof Datuk Dr D.M. Thuraiappah, convenor of the World Organisation of Family Doctors’ Working Party in Quality and Safety in Family Medicine, said general practitioners sent too many cases deemed “normal” to specialists, resulting in patients making unnecessary visits to hospitals and incurring high costs.

Family medicine specialists function as family doctors like GPs and family physicians, but they have more in-depth knowledge and expertise.

/theSTAR 31-05-2014

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