THIS is with reference to the article ‘Strengthening GPs for UHC’ (May 5) which highlighted an important component of primary healthcare where general practitioners (GPs) play a pivotal role in providing universal healthcare.
There can be no doubt that qualified GPs are the backbone of family medicine. They are the first contact for healthcare treatment in the community. GPs nowadays are not considered part of the larger healthcare system, and are never involved in family and public health affairs.
Like GPs, medical officers for general duty have also become a rare commodity. The reason is that every fresh medical graduate aspires to become a specialist after getting post-graduation at public expense.
Likewise, medical graduates are not interested in private practice as they have not been educated about family medicine during their academic and professional training. Health departments in Pakistan are also facing an acute shortage of medical officers at basic health units (BHUs) and rural health centres (RHCs), like GPs, to serve the community.
As a matter of fact, being a GP is a challenging assignment due to lack of proper training, poor compensation, heavy workload with no respite and no social security at all. The GPs have no linkage with public healthcare and usually do not enjoy due respect from government departments. Therefore, the role and activities of GPs need to be revisited and streamlined to integrate them into the national healthcare system.
Due to financial constraints, GPs avoid qualified paramedics and try to provide all curative, diagnostic and therapeutic services on their own. The Punjab Health Foundation is a useful institution, and its resources can be properly utilised for promoting and encouraging the GPs.
The previous government had introduced health insurance which covers only indoor facilities up to Rs1 million annually. It is a useful scheme and a large number of patients are benefitting from the programme. It can be utilised for providing coverage on an outpatient department (OPD) basis by incorporating the services of GPs and modifying the list of diseases currently covered by the mechanism.
Dr S. Anwaar Ahmad Bugvi
Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2023