The World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) set aside may 19 to commemorate and bring to fore the indispensable roles and contributions of family doctors in the health care system around the globe.
It’s evident that many a family in Nigeria do not know anything about family doctors, while a few knows and enjoys their professional services. So many reasons are attributed to these.
In this interview, a consultant surgeon and the erstwhile president, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Emmanuel Enabulele, tells us what we should know about family doctors.
What do we need to know about family doctors?
Family doctors are first line doctors of every family. They are actually specialties. However, they are restricted to practitioners who have affiliations to a particular family, who knows their health history and takes their health as a priority, especially where the health history falls within the ambit of the doctor’s specialization; but if it doesn’t follow this way, the family doctor can gives professional advise as the first line doctors. So celebrating family doctors is a pseudo way of celebrating the family because, by definition, the family doctor is supposed to be integral member of the family responsible for their health.
Are there doctors specifically trained to offer home support services?
No! Family doctors can be doctors of any specialty, but it’s usually a doctor who the family is comfortable with. Specialty does not play out most times because most family doctors are chosen based on one form of familiarity or the other.
What do families who do not have nor know anything about family doctors stands to lose?
Ab initio, many people come to hospital to register and open family file/card to see a particular doctor any time they have issues. So in a civilised society, a family doctor make home visit and knows the members of the family by their names. Though in Nigeria, the concept of a family doctor carrying his suitcase and box to visit the family he renders services has not been developed, probably, because of dearth of practitioners, it ought not to be so.
What would you say about brain drain in the medical sector?
It›s unfortunate medical tourism is zero in Nigeria. Will you blame our doctors emigrating to Canada, UK etc. since every slightest illness, people especially politicians use tax payers money and zoom off to Indian, Germany and other countries where even our indigenous doctors are doing exploits? Owing to the fact that people don›t have confidence in our local doctors, these days you hardly see a doctor going to a family for home service unless he is passing by or the family is wealthy.
What do you think can change the tide of brain drain in the health sector?
This has been there since 1984. No one can reverse it overnight until the resource controllers in Nigeria create the enabling ground for doctors to thrive here, enhance their remuneration and provide facilities, incentives and others for doctors to explore their profession. It’s shameful our doctors contribute handsomely to the GDP of other economies while ours keep sloping downward. How many foreigners come to Nigeria for medical tourism? Yet we answer giant of what I don’t know!
Most families say they can’t afford to engage family doctor. What do you think?
There’s no family, ‘in principle,’ that cannot afford the cost of a family doctor. It depends on the kind of relationship that exists between the family and the doctor. Though most doctors are driven by profit, some are contracted by family ties, church membership, old school association and other social groups they belong. The latter charge very little or nothing from the family because of the relationship. By the way, doctors’ services are seldom required except on critical cases and exigencies, where he visits the family regularly.
How do a doctor cope working in a hospital and attending family cases?
It’s a matter of time management. So many doctors run both clinics and family support services. It also depends on the exigency of the case. Even if you’re in a conference room, you can excuse yourself and save life. Most times, doctors may have two or more cases to attend at the same time at different locations, as such, we assign tasks to our colleagues and handle others depending on your expertise, so doctors have no excuse for not rendering home/family services.