The Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN),has enjoined its members across the country to embrace Family Medicine(FM) by obtaining a Diploma in FM, noting that the certificate will soon become a prerequisite for private practice in Nigeria.
The President of the association, Dr. Omo-Ehijiele Frank Odafen, who made the call during the graduation ceremony of Diplomates in the Faculty of Family Medicine Diploma at the Post Graduate Medical College, Ijaniki, Lagos, weekend, said that the step is in line with the NUC’s announcement a week ago, which directed all universities with medical schools to ensure they start the training in Family Medicine to ensure the building of the critical mass of FM practitioners.
He reasoned that the reason is that a family medicine physician is the most ideal specialist in medicine and essential to man and the health field due to the specialty’s expanded knowledge of health issues.
Odafen further explained that training in Family Medicine is the only way to achieve a very robust health as it prepares medical doctors to deliver qualitative, in every nuke and cranny of this country.
Describing FM as the gateway of healthcare delivery, the AGPMPN boss emphasized that this role can only be ensured when medical doctors embrace new skill that is comparable with global standard in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare delivery system.
“Only a Family Physician can solve about 80 per cent of the issues of patients, which means someone who understands about 80 per cent of health issues and can directly solve them should be given the job because that specialty is most qualified for it,” he added.
Meanwhile, the President said the Postgraduate Medical College was graduating over 360 family physicians because the country was in dare need of their expertise, adding that AGPMPN wants its members to continuously acquire new knowledge, as well as drop old techniques, while embracing new ones of healthcare delivery.
“So, as an association, we want Nigerians to enjoy very robust health and the only way to achieve this, is by encouraging medical doctors, in every nuke and cranny of this country to deliver qualitative healthcare, and this can only be ensured when they embrace new skill that is comparable with global standard in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare delivery system. Training in Family Medicine is one way to achieve this,” he said.
The President stressed: “Family Medicine is the gateway of healthcare delivery; hence this graduation is laudable to us. That is why, to show good example, I as the President, enrolled in the programme, same for the Secretary General, and other members of the executives to show that qualitative and affordable healthcare delivery is our motto.
“Family medicine physicians in Nigeria are about 800. We had about 400 plus before, and today, the school of Post Graduate Medicine graduated about 360. So we intend to build on this, such that every year from now on, there will be graduants. Our goal is to see that every family in the country will have a family physician assigned to them,” he added.
On what the impact of family medicine training would have on Nigeria’s healthcare system, he noted that with family physicians, every patient, irrespective of gender, disease condition, age, social, economic and political inclination can be sure of being attended to, unless the health issue requires a particular skill which was outside that of the family physician.
“In family medicine, out-patient treatment is holistic; we apply bio-social medical approach to our treatment. The illness of every patient has an impact on somebody, family, neigbhours, workplace or the society, and by extension, every illness has one form of economic impact on the economy of a nation. So, we can therefore not undermine the importance of the specialty in building a very healthy and robust state,” he stated.
While encouraging medical doctors to specialise in family medicine, Odafen noted that any doctor who wants to save lives in large scale must think about family medicine as over 80 per cent of Nigerians patronise them first, before thinking of any other specialty.
“It is important that Nigerian doctors embrace family medicine. Even among our graduants today, some are already specialised in other areas of medicine, yet, they still enrolled in this specialty because they have seen its importance in delivering proper healthcare to Nigerians.
“Like in Britain and other advanced countries, for you to practise as a private practitioner, you must first have specialty in family medicine, because people who visit hospitals come with various problems. So, a family physician will know what appropriate care the person should get and then deploy the skill to the management of the health issue, and if it exceeds his or her skill, then the patient is referred to the appropriate specialty,” he said.
He also added that in terms of primary healthcare delivery, the country has improved. “Before now, maternal mortality rate in the country was abysmally poor, same for other primary health issues, but because of the emphasis we have been laying on primary healthcare, things are getting better. Look at polio for instance, we have virtually eradicated it. Within the next 24 months, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is going to certify us polio free. Same success has been recorded in terms of measles.
“Recently, Ban ki Moon was in Nigeria, and he specifically applauded our efforts in polio elimination. If you go to hospitals, immunizations are going on. That is primary healthcare, and the people that hold the ace in this regard are family health physicians,” he stated.
Similarly, Dr. Kay A Adesola, Secretary General, AGPMPN, observed that the association which was in founded 1921, collaborates with the National Post Graduate Medical College of Nigeria (NPMCN) and West African College of Physicians(WACP) in the adoption of the new global trend of upgrading General Practice to Family Medicine, a specialty that provides continuous, comprehensive and coordinated care to individuals, families and populations undifferentiated by age, gender, disease or organizations.
Adesola collaborating earlier views stressed: “Family physicians are therefore, referred to as the gatekeepers in the field of medical practice since they constitute the sorting unit, the most vital providership of primary care. They are the frontline doctors seeing patients of all kinds, taking care of 80 per cent and sorting out the remaining 20 per cent through best guidance and referral.
The AGPMPN scribe further said: “Family physician, regardless of the training background, constitutes the critical mass needed for turning around the practice of medicine. As at the time of this convocation, only about 400 fellows and 367 Diplomates have been produced to serve the population of over 180million. No wonder, NUC announced about a week ago, the marching order requesting all universities with medical schools to ensure they start the training in Family Medicine. Again, another building of the critical mass.”
The specialty of Family Medicine has gradually gained more acceptance since it got rooted in the Health Delivery Program in Nigeria since 1980.AGPMPN remains the progenitor of the Faculty of Family Medicine and will continue to ensure its success. AGPMPN is also encouraging her members from all over the country to embrace family medicine as its very imperative in the near future that Diploma in FM will become a prerequisite for private practice in Nigeria’’
On behalf of AGPMPN, the executives called on President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint a Medical Doctor, especially a Family Medicine Physician, as the Health Minister when he eventually unveils his executive team later this month.
According to him, over 80 per cent of patients in the country patronise private hospitals because of timeliness to treatment – a major reason why the specialty was very key to the success the Ministry of Health under President Buhari would achieve.
Though he noted that medical doctors in any of the specialties in medicine were qualified to hold the position and that AGPMPN would work with any doctor in any specialty the President chooses to appoint, he stressed that he was recommending Family Medicine physicians because they have multifaceted skills in the area of medicine and general healthcare.
“Having said that, in the spirit of Private-Public Partnership which is the only robust way to deliver quality healthcare, we have already designed a document which will be given to the incoming Minister, so he or she can hit the ground running,”
This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 17, 2015.