Background: It was noted that family medicine (FM) was not used properly by doctors at Letaba Hospital. Anecdotally, misconceptions and misunderstandings about FM were reported. An exploration was recommended to understand the perceptions and attitudes of doctors at Letaba Hospital with regard to FM. Identifying doctors’ misconceptions and the possible reasons for mistaken beliefs about FM by other specialists could offer possible solutions. Methods: A qualitative study was conducted that attempted to identify the perceptions of doctors about FM and to explore their attitudes towards this specialty. Results: The primary findings indicate more positive than negative perceptions of other disciplines towards FM. The participants viewed FM as the centre of the healthcare system, with prevention being its core business. This includes a holistic approach, the continuity of care, being community-based, and receiving recognition as a specialty. Family medicine was described by various medical personnel as making a positive contribution to the healthcare system. They note the role of FM discipline in district hospitals, its support of primary healthcare and its ability to fill the gaps in the healthcare system, including surgical skills. The few negative perceptions that were identified mostly related to the status of FM as a specialty and doctors’ level of surgical ability. Based on individual interviews, 11 themes were extracted and a ‘wheel’ model was created, depicting the core values of the FM discipline. Conclusion: The study concluded that most participants have a positive perception of the role of FM, similar to the views of the senior staff in the discipline itself. The concerns from most participants are in the area of preventative medicine, which has not been given enough priority in South Africa and where doctors are expected to rapidly attend to long queues and manage casualties. There was also concern of a perceived lack of surgical skills.
- Community health services
- Doctors’ misconceptions of family medicine
- Doctors’ perceptions towards family medicine
- Family medicine
- Primary healthcare professionals