The knowledge of general practitioners in the Vaal Triangle concerning common eye diseases.
De Lange, Johannes Tobias.
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General Practitioners (GPs) are often the first clinician to be consulted regarding eye care problems. The incidence of avoidable visual impairment will increase significantly in the future raising concerns that the General Practitioner (GP) will be confronted even more with eye related complaints. Worldwide there is a tendency to decrease the amount of time spent in undergraduate training, in all smaller disciplines. Inadequate undergraduate training seems to leave a void in the knowledge of GPs concerning the management of primary eye care problems. Having been in Private GP Practice myself for five years and then starting to specialise, I realised that the undergraduate exposure to Ophthalmology is most probably insufficient. During my interaction with colleagues at a GP level, I found that this is a common feeling and that this contributed to uncertainty in treatment of patients with "eye problems”. This study aimed to examine the knowledge of GPs in the Vaal Triangle (Vereeniging, Vanderbijlpark and Sasolburg) regarding common eye diseases and to determine if any deficiencies in their knowledge existed. The second objective was to determine if a lack of knowledge regarding common eye diseases could be due to insufficient undergraduate training and to determine if a need to revise the curricula of the undergraduate ophthalmic programs of the various Universities exist. For a comprehensive revision of curricula, a complete examination of the contents and training methods should also be undertaken which is not the aim of this study. An observational descriptive cross-sectional study, utilising purposive sampling, was done by inviting all GPs in private practice in the Vaal Triangle area, registered with the Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF), to participate. A questionnaire consisting of 10 primary care level ophthalmology questions, as well as questions to determine demographics and other variables, was emailed to each General Practitioner (GP). The questions were completed online by following a link provided in the email that was send. Most of the questions came from a similar study that was conducted in Cape Town by a different author. The response rate for this research project was 81.4% (79 out of 97 GPs). All eight South African universities with medical schools were represented in the research population. According to the feedback received 56.5% GP’s rated eye related complaints as 10% or more of their total workload. Alarmingly 44.3% GPs scored less than 50% in the questionnaire, yet 83% felt that the primary eye care should be done by the GP. The results further indicated that the longer the undergraduate rotation in the field of Ophthalmology, the better the performance is in terms of knowledge regarding primary eye care management. Duration in private practice did not contribute to better knowledge in the identification and management of eye related problems. Enhancing undergraduate training programmes for primary eye care may result in better clinical management of eye health by GPs.