The first doctor in Calcutta that one usually goes to is usually the last one to keep a record of his/her patients, maintain profiles of diseases or conduct any research into the cases that crop up most frequently. So, most of the time, the doctor gropes in the dark and inspires little confidence.
The stock of the humble general physician — referred to as the GP — could not sink lower. And it’s precisely this malaise that the Family Physicians’ Association (FPA), Calcutta, has set out to address and then treat. On Sunday, more than 500 general physicians — including several from outside the state — put their heads together at the seventh annual conference of the Family Physicians’ Association, Calcutta. The conference was inaugurated on Saturday by ex-Union health minister Shatrughan Sinha in “a personal capacity”.
“We would like to change the state of things,” said FPA organising secretary Ramlal B. Lhila. “That we have decided to hold the annual conference in Calcutta for the first time proves that we are serious about our intentions.”
Admitting that family physicians — as a community — had failed to live up to expectations, Lhila said this was what was driving away the average patient to a specialist. “Even a few years ago, the average Calcuttan would consult the family physician (almost always a GP) if there was a medical problem in the family. Now, that place has been usurped by the specialist,” he admitted.
According to the FPA, only a “deep and sincere introspection” would reveal the reasons for this. “Most family physicians do not keep any medical record of their patients or maintain any profile of their diseases,” admitted Lhila. “How can one expect proper treatment when this simple procedure is not followed'”
The other cause for concern is the refusal to keep pace with the world of medicine. “We have explained to our members the importance of keeping track of the changes in the medical world,” said Lhila. The FPA, he added, was trying to build an infrastructure for some research work on the outbreak of diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, heart attack and diabetes.
Governments everywhere tend to ignore GPs, allege some association members. So, a delegation of FPA members met minister of state for health Pratyush Mukherjee on Sunday. “He seemed to understand that one cannot ignore GPs,” said association member Govind K. Gupta.