Medical practitioners’ reactions towards family medicine as a speciality in South Africa.
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Background: Family physicians are trained to treat a wide range of diseases, treatment being centred on the patient, family and community irrespective of age, gender, or ethnic or racial background. To deal with inequalities in health care, the South African government introduced the concept of a district health system in 1997. It was only in August 2007, however, that family medicine was legislated as a speciality. This study was undertaken prior to the enactment of this legislation. Method: A descriptive quantitative study using a self-administered questionnaire was undertaken. A convenience sampling technique was used (N = 60) to assess the reactions of medical practitioners towards the impending legislation. Results: Overall, 60% of the sample was in favour of the legislation. There were no significant differences between those working in the private and public sectors or between generalists and specialists. With regard to those not in favour of the legislation compared to those in favour of the legislation, a significantly increased number answered the following statements in the affirmative: (i) ‘I already carry out the functions of a family physician’ (p = 0.001), (ii) ‘They [specialist family physicians] will not be as qualified as specialists in other categories’ (p = 0.005), (iii) ‘It will have a negative impact on general practice’ (p < 0.001), (iv) ‘It will increase competitiveness’ (p = 0.021), (v) ‘It will not have any effect on patient care’ (p = 0.010) and (vi) ‘There is no need for such a speciality’ (p = 0.001). Conclusion: We concluded that the majority were in favour of the legislation being implemented.
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