Focus on primary health care
Published on: Friday, September 23, 2022
By: Sherell Jeffrey
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Noor Hisham said primary care has a substantial role in disease prevention, early detection and treatment to improve the population’s overall health. 
Kota Kinabalu: The Ministry of Health is looking into delegating some of the minor surgical procedures to government clinics so as to ease the congestion at hospitals, according to Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. 

He recalled when officiating the 24th Family Medicine Scientific Conference, Thursday, that in the early days, primary care also involved in surgery. 

“I still remember having ingrown toenail surgery and it was done by the Family Medicine Specialist. 

“Not by the hospital but in the clinic,” he said, adding that back then clinics performed some procedures for lumps and bumps. 

“We want to empower them back so that primary health care can manage some of the cases. Therefore, by doing so cases will not come to the hospital.”

“Otherwise, every minor surgery will come to the hospital. Thus, we can decongest some of the surgical procedures to primary care,” he said.

“Minor surgery can be done in the procedure room. For example, the routine surgery that is mere circumcision during the school holiday they do at the hospital. You know hospital is for more complex cases. We can do this (circumcision) in the primary care or in the community.

“These are some simple procedures that can be empowered to the family medicine physician,” he said. 

He said primary care has a substantial role in disease prevention, early detection and treatment to improve the population’s overall health. 

“The effective provision of primary care services has also inadvertently avoided overcrowding of tertiary care facilities. 

“Increasing emphasis on primary care is a cost effective and efficient way to reduce the burden of disease in the community, improve the nation’s productivity and control the escalation of healthcare costs. 

“Whether in crises or even during ordinary times, a health system can count on strong primary health care to save lives and improve the well-being of the people,” he said. 

He said this would ensure universal health coverage, health security and the attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that promote quality, people-centred primary care.

He said primary health care’s role as the backbone in battling the Covid-19 pandemic was immeasurable. 

“From screening the population by carrying out sampling at government clinics nationwide to giving immunisation under the National Covid19 Immunisation Programme up to reviewing patients who have recovered from the Covid-19 infection, our healthcare force, especially those in primary care, worked tirelessly in helping to curb and control the spread of this sinister pandemic,” he said.

He said the dynamic partnership and teamwork between the Ministry and various ministries, such as the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Education, as well as various NGOs has also helped in the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

He said a critical aspect of the ability of nations to combat any new outbreak and one as devastating as Covid-19 is the coping ability of its healthcare system. 

“The whole healthcare system may be stretched thin with improper management and administration. Since the outset, the Ministry prepared for worst-case scenarios and outlined the plan in clear and easily accessible guidelines. 

“In times of crisis, the collaboration of both public and private healthcare sectors is needed, and no one should be allowed to work in silo,” he said. 

The three-day conference organised by the Family Medicine Specialists Association (FMSA) is held at the Sabah Convention International Centre until Sept 24 with its theme “Riding Out the Storm: Primary Care Rising to the Challenges”.

Also present were Sabah Health Director Datuk Dr Rose Nani Mudin, UMS Family Health Consultant and Faculty of Medicine Lecturer Associate Prof. Dr Mohd Nazri Mohd Daud, FMSA President Dr Sri Wahyu Taher, and Organising Chairperson Dr Zaiton Yahaya, among others.

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