Journalist Vivian Po, of New America Media, has written an article that focuses attention on a critical issue for children with special health care needs: long waits to be seen by a pediatric specialist.
Many kids with special needs have multiple medical issues, and require the attention of one or more specialists with expertise in caring for children. California, like the rest of the United States, suffers from a severe lack of these specialists. Last year, the Children’s Specialty Care Coalition, a non-profit association, surveyed the medical directors from nine California medical groups, representing 2,000 pediatric specialists. Results of that survey, released in December, indicated that the waiting time for a specialist is between 16 and 114 days. Children with diabetes, for example, must wait 56 days to see a pediatric endocrinologist, and children with heart conditions wait 39 days before they can see a pediatric cardiologist.
Delaying needed specialty care for children, or forcing them to be seen in emergency rooms, is inadequate medical care, and can put lives at risk. The dearth of pediatric specialists results from several factors, most notably poor reimbursement for physicians who treat children, and extended training requirements that leave young physicians deeply in debt when they begin to practice.
Our foundation is working toward improving the systems of care for kids with special needs, including finding ways to provide more specialty care. See our website at http://www.lpfch.org/informed/cshcn/.
Posted by David Alexander, MD