The health reform “debate” (such as it is) has highlighted our nation’s PCP shortage, but there’s another area where the demand for MD-level services outstrips supply: pediatricians trained in sub-specialties like gastroenterology, rheumatology, and developmental -behavioral medicine.
NACHRI, the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions recently briefed Congress on the matter, in an attempt to favorably influence the “debate.”
A recent survey of its members, NACHRI officials said, revealed widespread shortages in multiple pediatric specialties which have forced 90% of member’s facilities to delay appointments.
What is more, members reported that vacancies for specialty pediatricians often remained unfilled for more than a year. The most severe shortages are in cardiology, oncology, hematology and developmental-behavioral medicine.
The latter shortage is of particular concern in light of the recent spike in autism-related disorders. Half the members in the survey reported delays of more than 3 months before getting to see a developmental specialist as a result.
Part of the explanation for the shortage is the woefully inadequate compensation these specialists receive. It amounts to just more than half the haul raked in by their counterparts in adult care.
In this regard, a provision in the House bill which requires Medicaid to pay Medicare rates for office visits would really help, NACRI officials say. NACHRI is also lobbying for increased funding for specialty training and a loan-forgiveness program.
In Pediatrics, specialization requires 2 to 3 years of training after the general pediatrics residency is completed.
“While most of us are driven into this profession because we love kids, the vast majority leave training with huge debt and the prospect of not making very much money at the end,” John McBride told the Wall Street Journal. McBride is a pediatric pulmonologist at Akron’s Children’s Hospital Medical Center.