New Delhi: With the rising significance of specialization and super-specialization in the field of medicine, the role of family physicians who were once considered the backbone of the field of medicine has indeed gone down
A group of family physicians, the first contact in the healthcare system, recently moved the Supreme Court seeking due recognition and opportunities in hospitals across the country. The petition was filed by the association Academy of Family Physicians of India
Demand for Separate Department at Each Medical College/Hospital
The petition, filed through advocate Suvidutt M Sundaram, sought a direction to establish a separate department of Family Medicine/General Practice in every medical hospital across India or make it mandatory for starting a medical college.
“A family physician’s scope of practice covers all organ systems, genders and age groups. A family doctor provides primary and continuing care to the entire family within the communities; addresses physical, psychological and social problems; and coordinates comprehensive health care services with other specialists, as needed,” the plea said.
It also sought direction to the Medical Council of India to frame guidelines for amending and rationalizing ‘Medical Council of India Post Graduate Medical Education Regulations 2000’ for starting new Post Graduate (PG) courses and creating PG seats in the discipline of Family Medicine/ General Practice.
It sought direction to make postgraduate in family medicine as a desirable qualification for postings in the Community Health Centre and Sub-Divisional hospitals.
The plea further sought a direction affecting the removal of regulatory restriction on primary care doctors from becoming medical teachers in India by amending and rationalising MCI’s Minimum Qualifications for Teachers in Medical Institutions Regulations of 1998.
Absence of Due Recognition- Violation of Constitution
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Naveen Sinha was told by petitioner, Academy of Family Physicians of India, that the absence of separate departments of family medicine or deliberate inaction on the part of authorities had violated the right to health of a citizen, which is a part of Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Advocate J Saideep Deepak, appearing for the doctors, said that despite various recommendations made since 1980s by several bodies including a parliamentary standing committee, the Health Ministry’s Medical Education Review Committee, and the National Knowledge Commission, no due recognition has been given to family medicine in hospitals and medical colleges.
He said this violated the right of a doctor with specialization in family medicine as he or she is forced to be a misfit in other departments in the hospitals.
The council also contended that the family physicians “have a specialization in Family Medicine and in most countries, function as the first contact person in the health system and function as gate keepers of recourses and optimal utilization of expensive tertiary care facilities through a structured referral system”.
He said family physicians formed the backbone of healthcare delivery system, be it private insurance-based US system or public-funded universal health coverage in the UK.
“Even neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Nepal recognize this medical discipline of family medicines,” he said.
On hearing the matter, the bench said the prime grievance of the petitioner was that despite several recommendations, no separate department exists.
“This is a policy decision. In our opinion, the petitioner is at liberty to make a representation to the government and Medical Council of India,” the bench said while disposing of the matter. The bench granted the permission to AFPI to make the suitable representations to both in the matter.