January 24, 2009

Calif. hospitals cutting pediatrics units

California hospitals have been steadily cutting pediatric care during the past decade, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

While the number of California children has grown to 10 million, more than 65 hospitals have either closed children's units or gone under, the newspaper said. At least two dozen have cut the number of beds for children and few counties north of Sacramento provide beds dedicated to pediatric care.

More than 800 in-patient pediatrics beds were eliminated between 1998 and 2007, a cut of 19 percent. More than half of those were in Los Angeles County, where dozens more pediatric beds have been lost since 2007, the Times reported after analyzing data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and the U.S. Census.

Policy analysts and pediatric care professionals are concerned the changes, which appear to be largely a result of financial considerations, are resulting in too few hospitals caring for concentrated numbers of children, with more pediatric care being delivered on an outpatient basis.

Paul Wise, a children's healthcare policy researcher at Stanford University, told the newspaper things are a mess in California.

There seems to be a lack of any coherent monitoring or oversight, he said.

Diana Dooley, chief executive of the Children's Hospital Association of California, said some children will be denied the level of care that they need.

They'll have to get no care or they'll have to get care that isn't delivered by "¦ pediatricians trained in the special needs of children, she said.