By Felicia Imohimi
The Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria (SOFPON) has called for recognition of their specialist members as primary health givers by the government and the general public to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Nigeria.
Dr Gbenga Ogunfowokan, the SOFPON Chairman, FCT/Keffi Chapter, made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja in commemoration of the World Family Doctors Day (WFD), marked on May 19 annually.
The theme for 2019 is “Family Doctors: Caring for you for the whole of your life”.
Ogunfowokan, who described family physicians as primary healthcare givers, emphasised that over 80 per cent of people that goes to tertiary hospital actually required the care of family physicians.
According to him, they should be given their rightful place in the healthcare sector.
“We must advance at the secondary and tertiary healthcare levels to accept that family physicians are the primary care givers.
“They should be recognised as such and be supported, encouraged to be able to provide the care they suppose to give patients,” said the chairman.
He further urged the government to encourage family physicians as well as advance the profession by ensuring there are training centres for family medicines at every tertiary, secondary health institutions across the country.
Ogunfowokan lamented that at the moment some general hospitals and Federal Medical Centres (FMCs) were yet to commence family medicine training.
He described the gap as a challenge in government’s quest at achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
“There are some general hospitals and even some federal medical centres where family medicine training has not started.
“The Federal Government should give directive to Commissioners of Health in various states to establish training institutions for family physicians.
“This is the only way we can increase and improve the critical mass of family physicians that we need to care for the Nigerian population.
“Even at the tertiary care level we need family physicians to train others in family care research, facility base research as well as patient oriented research.
“Those specialists at the tertiary level are the ones that will train the next generations of well equipped family physicians that will work in healthcare centres to provide the care they suppose to give to patients and families,” he said.
On this year’s theme, he chairman explained that family physicians have the specialist training to cater for the problems facing humanity before conception, cradle to grave and even the family he left behind.
“They are the only ones that have the specialist training to cater for the problems that face humanity before conception even at the time of planning marriage family physicians are there, from the time marriage is consummated when the new couple start the family.
“They are there for you not just in disease condition even in seemingly healthy condition, when you begin to have children to take care of; when children grow up even till school age they are there.
“When children grow to teenagers, school age with it challenges, by the time they grow old, elderly, become sick and is about to go to the great beyond family physicians are there.
“Even when at the demise of the aged the specialists are there to manage the pains, discomfort, sorrow, pains of the family that are left behind hence the theme encapsulate family doctor caring for you the whole of your life,” he said.
Ogunfowokan, who identified family physicians as the first contact doctors, also urged individuals to have a family doctor irrespective of age, gender, any condition they may have whether sick or not.
He emphasised that family doctor takes care of every kind of sickness.
NAN reports that the WFD is initiated by the World Sanitation of National Colleges, Association, Academies and Society of Family Doctors (WONCA) in 2010.
The day was set aside to highlight the role and contribution of family doctors in healthcare systems around the world as well as to celebrate the progress made in family medicine globally.