Li DKT. Challenges and responsibilities of family doctors in the new global coronavirus outbreak Family Medicine and Community Health 2020;8:e000333. doi: 10.1136/fmch-2020-000333
The world is again facing the threat of a deadly infection. After the Ebola outbreaks in Africa, the WHO has declared the novel coronavirus, spreading from Wuhan city in China since December, another public health emergency of international concern. At the time I was writing this commentary, the virus continues to infect more people and land on more cities. While the healthcare systems are put to a tough test, it is also a critical moment that the roles and responsibilities of family doctors are assessed and recognised.
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province with more than 11 million population, is a major domestic and international traffic hub connecting to almost everywhere in the country and the world. The recent Chinese New Year celebration in China is often described as the world’s biggest annual human migration, making the outbreak even more difficult to be contained. National authorities and the WHO are monitoring the development very closely, and international resources and expertise are being pooled together to fight the battle.
Like many other family doctors from Hong Kong, we reminisce on the latest outbreak. We have learnt a painful lesson from the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak 17 years ago. Since that 2003 fatal outbreak, the role of family doctors in risk reduction and preparedness to medical emergency has gained recognition both locally and globally.
We need to emphasise and appreciate the functions of family doctors and the primary care teams in early case detection and public education during emergencies. We need to acknowledge the pivotal role of community-based practitioners who are competent, professional and responsible. We also need to depart from the traditional hospital-centred concept. In China, many patients still flock to hospitals for suspected chest infections or fever. Policies to keep patients in the community are evolving following the issue of new guidelines for isolations and quarantine.
There are many opportunities for family doctors to contribute during medical emergencies.
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