An article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times titled “Pediatric care shrinks across California” shows that as funding for pediatric care has decreased in California, so has the number of hospitals that are willing to provide pediatric care.
California’s reimbursement rates for children’s health care is ranked last in the country. It shouldn’t come as a shock that more and more hospitals are focusing on treating adults – because they get paid more for doing so.
In the last decade, the number of children in California has increased, but the number of inpatient pediatric beds dropped by 19% – more than 800 beds. Sixty five hospitals either eliminated their children’s units or shut down altogether. The article states that “most counties north of Sacramento now lack even a single dedicated pediatric bed.”
What happens when your child becomes severely ill and there are no pediatric ICU beds within several hundred miles?
LA County – USC Medical Center dropped from 135 pediatric beds 2 years ago to just 55 beds now. There is now a question as to whether the LA County will be able to provide care for the 7,000 foster children treated annually at the Medical Center.
The cuts may also affect pediatric training programs. The hospital now reportedly has the smallest university-affiliated pediatrics teaching program in the nation. The LA County Supervisor states that the program will become “noncompetitive to intern applicants except the poor performers from low-ranked medical schools.”
One parent who brought her child to a hospital emergency department with no licensed pediatric beds describes waiting for 11 hours for her son to be seen and then noted that the medical providers “seemed unaccustomed to treating infants and had difficulty inserting an IV.”
A Stanford children’s health policy researcher was quoted as saying “In California, things are a mess”.
Once the balance billing issue takes full effect and emergency physicians are paid even less for the care they provide, I predict that medical care in California will be an even “bigger” mess.
Is everyone starting to get the idea that you get what you pay for?