Family Physicians Seek Recognition; SC Asks Them to Approach Govt, MCI


    06 July 2018

The top court granted liberty to the family physicians to approach the Centre and the Medical Council of India with a proper representation, saying this was a matter of policy decision.

New Delhi: A group of family physicians, the first contact in the healthcare system, has moved the Supreme Court seeking due recognition and opportunities in hospitals across the country.

The top court granted liberty to the family physicians to approach the Centre and the Medical Council of India with a proper representation, saying this was a matter of policy decision.

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 Ministrys 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 specialisation in family medicine as he or she is forced to be a misfit in other departments in the hospitals.

The counsel also contended that the family physicians "have a specialisation 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 utilisation 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 neighbhouring countries like Pakistan and Nepal recognise 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 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 physicians 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 rationalising 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 post graduate in family medicine as a desirable qualification for postings in the Community Health Centre and Sub-Divisional hospitals.

The plea further sought a direction effecting the removal of regulatory restriction on primary care doctors from becoming medical teachers in India by amending and rationalising MCIs Minimum Qualifications for Teachers in Medical Institutions Regulations of 1998.

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