Pediatrics in America Part 2: Pediatric hospitals are disappearing

In a previous post, I called attention to the decline in the number of medical students who choose pediatrics as a career. Some of the slack can be taken up by nurses and physician assistants, but access to pediatricians is a growing problem.

So, too, is access to pediatric care at hospitals:

“Pediatric hospitals have been disappearing all across the country. During the decade before the COVID pandemic, data from the American Hospital Association survey showed an average of 407 pediatric inpatient beds were lost every year — either due to the closing of entire pediatric units or due to the redistribution of resources to more lucrative adult and subspecialty care units.

“It wasn’t because there were significantly fewer children to fill these beds; in fact, the U.S. pediatric population decreased by less than 1% in this same period. Comparatively, in rural America where the stark decline in access has been even more drastic, pediatric inpatient capacity decreased by 26.1% between 2008 and 2018.”

“According to the link below, 85% of children are seen in non-pediatric EDs and pediatric critical care is almost exclusively located in large academic medical centers, requiring families outside of these hubs to travel further and further for desperately necessary services. Why is this? Follow the money:

“Across general practice and subspecialties, adult care providers have, on average, a $1.2 million higher lifetime earning potential compared to their pediatric counterparts.

“Adult and pediatric residency programs also receive vastly different amounts of governmental support. An adult medicine program may receive nearly twice as much per-resident funding from Medicare as a freestanding children’s hospital does from Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) — whose budget, unlike Medicare, is set by annual congressional approval.

“Meanwhile, the number of applicants to U.S. pediatric residencies has fallen for the ninth straight year.”

Our children are America’s future. It seems like pediatric care *should* be something that unites citizens and politicians across the political spectrum.

Access to pediatric care is eroding