Pediatrician Shortages in Hospitals Threaten Quality Care for Children
According to an article published in The Wall Street Journal, a recent survey conducted by the Children’s Hospital Association revealed that three out of four hospitals are experiencing physician shortages and long wait times in the pediatric department. The Children’s Hospital Association believes the shortage of care is due to a lack of federal funding and could become worse with potential Medicaid cuts.
The survey results consisted of responses from 70 hospitals that are part of the Children’s Hospital Association, all of which reported the most severe shortage of care to be in the areas of neurology, general surgery, and developmental-behavioral medicine. The goal is to not have patients wait more than two weeks for an appointment, but the wait time can be more than seven times that, the Children’s Hospital Association reported. Mark Wietecha, president and CEO of the Children's Hospital Association said, "When children don't get timely care, they miss school; they can fall behind; their parents miss work, creating more family stress. A domino effect can occur when children don't have timely access to specialized pediatric care.”
The responses from the participating hospitals indicated that, for many families, the long wait time for appointments has resulted in declining health for their children. Mike Johnston, age 14, suffered from severe headaches and was rushed to the emergency department long before his scheduled hospital appointment. In the ER, doctors discovered Mike had a large cancerous brain tumor, something his father, John Johnston, feels could have been treated much sooner had he received a timely appointment.
In an effort to reverse the problem, The Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) focuses on training pediatricians and pediatric specialists, but its funding was recently cut by more than $50 million. According to CHGME, without proper funding and with the additional threat of Medicaid cuts in children’s healthcare, the shortage of pediatric care will persist.
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