National Doctors Day 2022: Family Doctors on the Front Line Promise to fulfil the dream of Bharat Ratna Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy
Dr. Shib Sekhar Datta
National Doctor’s Day, is a special day that is celebrated worldwide in different countries on various dates. Doctor’s Day has been observed by many countries as a symbol of physicians’ contributions to the society at large. It is even observed as a holiday in many countries by patients, and healthcare organizations. In India, the day is commemorated after Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, India’s most well-known and legendary doctor. Dr. BC Roy was born on July 1, 1882 and died on the same date in 1962. Dr. Roy (Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1948 to 1962) was awarded Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, a year before his death.
The incredible life led by Dr. Roy inspired The Indian Medical Association to dedicate a day to his achievements and thus Doctor’s Day was established in India on 1 July in 1991. Every year, on this day, life and feats of this incredible man is celebrated, and health care workers, medical organizations and often patients working together for one-health are honoured. This year’s theme on National Doctor’s Day in India is ‘Family Doctors on the Front Line’. Just to remind readers, the theme for 2021 was "Save The Saviours". Sixty years post Dr. Roy, when our state is being led by a medical doctor as the Chief Minister of the state, we all can expect a midas touch which will transform the health system of our state.
With COVID-19 pandemic changing lives across the world more than ever, the importance of doctors has been felt like never before. Records tell us that doctors in India work extremely hard. Approximately 65% doctors reported working overtime in recent years, with usual working hours being more than 60 hours per week. These doctors usually invest their entire youth, enthusiasm, and often money to learn the art of medicine and surgery to serve mankind. And one might argue, but fact remains that Indian doctors today stand tall at world arena providing advanced care at low cost which ranges from primary care to cardiac and cancer care.
Celebrating Doctor’s Day is aimed at; one, to encourage young medical professionals towards purpose of life; two, to draw attention to the contribution and advances that has happened in medical and surgical field, including technology and innovation; and three, of course to celebrate the life of Dr. Roy, who inspired generations towards medical profession. It is very common to organize free medical check-up camps, screening camps across the country on this day by various medical organizations. Activities are also organized at schools and colleges to encourage students to take up medical profession. Patients often greet their doctors by sending greeting cards, gifts, bouquets, etc.
Coming to the concept of family doctor, s/he is a doctor/health worker who provides general medical treatment for people who live in a particular family or area. The classical example of a family doctor includes general practitioners, family physicians, family medicine specialists, and medical officers in the public sector. Traditionally family doctors are primary healthcare professionals and available, wherever and whenever needed. They are part of the communities where they work, sharing their core values and making bonds of trust with them. Family doctors are present at all times, always at the front line and continuously provide care in all stages of patients’ lives. Family doctors have always been the backbone of health care.
Medical science today is breaking new boundaries. High impact technologies and therapeutics are showing miracles with saving lives and even improving quality of life. But the personal touch of a doctor, the bio-psycho-social model of health care seems to be fading day by day. The culture of respecting doctors and medical teachers is also at its low horizon now. Today, we must not desire to return to days where malaria and diarrhoea used to be horror stories. But, within plethora of technology-driven medical care, we need to very careful not to sacrifice the very humane touch which once Dr. Roy taught us. The everyday happening violence against medical professionals, whether due to misfit health system or just public arrogance can also be mitigated by following this path.
We need to look at the other side of the coin also and reflect upon the crisis that exists in the health system regarding manpower. India achieved the recommended one doctor available for 1,000 people as per World Health Organization in 2018. Thanks to AYUSH department also for this arithmetic victory. Number of medical colleges meanwhile increased from 335 in 2011 to 595 colleges in 2021, mostly private. Majority of these colleges churn out specialists and super-specialists, who are ready to take care of our major ailments, offered at very high price. If we just look around, every corner of any city today has a multi-speciality clinic or hospital. But the presence of family doctors is surprisingly missing who will care for us during our minor ailments and guide us how to lead a healthy life, with that very humane touch at door-step, which we all desire for. The situation is practically opposite and even worse in rural India where a government doctor serves over 30,000 people.
The newly formed National Medical Commission (NMC) which looks into the quality of medical education in India recently noticed that there is still mismatch between skills taught in most of the medical schools and which is required to serve the nation at large and revised the curriculum, the Competency-Based Medical Education with elements like AETCOM (attitude, ethics and communication skills) to train the medical students who will care for the people in coming days. Up-skilling doctors, nurses and paramedical staff with AETCOM to bring back the era of family doctors should be our next target. It is said that ‘a seed grows with no sound, but a tree falls with huge noise’. We all to some extents have witnessed the noise created by COVID-19, and now must wait to witness the creation as well.
If we dig deeper, the investment on healthcare in India is one of the lowest in the world, which has consistently drifted around 1% of the GDP. This is contrary to the fact that health-care in India is among the cheapest in the world, yet unaffordable for many. The out-of-pocket spending on healthcare is among highest in the world. The solution to affordable health-care surely lies in local and national initiatives. At national and state level, we need to invest more, not just in terms of money, but through efficiency and transparency in the health system, which must also be accountable to public needs. Regulating the prices of health-care; be it medicines, tests or procedures, could be the initiatives in this direction. Medical schools must also train future generation doctors in a manner in which they must possess the traits and skills of Dr. BC Roy to serve the nation.
With increasing violence against doctors and omnipresent media as well as judiciary trial for lapses in documentation at institutional level, doctors these days are really scared at professional front. It is high time that we bring back our family doctors whom family and society at large believe they can trust. Indian Medical Association also recently through a petition to the government demanded engagement of family doctors who are capable of treating minor ailments, for which often our existing health system gets overburdened. The slogan is clear and loud, ‘Bring Back our Family Doctors, if possible, with the charisma of Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy’.