The family doctor – old-fashioned or the key to a healthy future? (Part 1)

Continuity of care. What a great Topic Edwin Kruys. Worth adding to the eclectic mix on this blog of the importance of a strong primary health care. However what does that even mean? General Practice is such a complex part of the health system which interfaces every other aspect of the health system, but which is hard to describe.
Like many GPs I think the fact that it is both -hard to describe and hard to see how important this central role is – are reasons why GPs and GP specialty services are often undervalued.
Yet there is increasing academic research which points again and again to the centrality and efficiency of this part of the health service.
When I took over a very old rundown practice in 1998 my octogenarian senior retiring partner told me something that has always resonated. This was from a man who was a Polish Jew, whose family had been partly lost in the Holocaust and who had fought on the Russian front. He emigrated to Australia and as a qualified rehab specialist from Poland worked as an orderly in a hospital plaster cast department in the basement. One of the orthopaedic surgeons noted the exemplary work and sponsored him to get recognition for his qualifications and exam. This now much older Polish man, my retiring Senior a Partner with his OAM (order of Australia medal),  leaned back in his chair his blue eyes hooded and a shock of white hair matching his buttoned up white coat. He checked me out as the custodian of his life’s work in Australian General Practice.     He said “Karen, life is all about relationships.”

How true dear Fred and how poignant from a man who had lived the life that he had
General Practice reflects that life. General Practice is about relationships. Very powerful and not easily measured. Too easily overlooked.
RIP dear Fred. And thanks for the reminder too Ed Kruys of the special nature of Primary Care.

Doctor's Bag

The Family Doctor The Family Doctor in 1948. Source:

A few years ago, when I was boarding a plane I picked up The Times newspaper and noticed a big headline stating: ‘The family doctor is going out of fashion’. In the article journalist Matthew Parris explained why young people prefer to go to the emergency department. I kept the article as I thought it would be a great blog topic, but for some reason I forgot about it – until something jolted my memory.

Last month I had the pleasure of meeting with the Board of Health Consumers Queensland. I enjoy conversations with consumer representatives as I always learn something, even though these exchanges are usually slightly confronting. One of the topics we touched on was continuity of care, or better, the perceived lack thereof in general practice by consumers. During the drive back home to the Sunshine Coast I suddenly remembered…

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