On January 13, the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) released the results of its 2009 survey on the supply of pediatric specialists.

The results showed that children's hospitals across the country are experiencing shortages that affect children's care, especially in neurology, developmental behavior, gastroenterology, general surgery, and pulmonology.

Why the Shortage

Information from NACHRI further indicates that 69 percent of pediatric physicians choose general pediatrics and less than two percent choose a subspecialty – with reason. Pediatric specialists train two to three years longer and earn far less than adult providers.

Furthermore, inadequate Medicaid reimbursements force pediatric specialists to limit participation of children insured by the program.

In effect, the nation's medical schools are turning out fewer physicians – with fewer incentives – to care for children's special needs. This may result in delays in getting children into the office and clinics of pediatric specialists for care. Given this shortage and the competitive demand for their services – and in the absence of regionalizing specialty care for children – specialists' costs will drastically rise disproportionate to general medical costs.

What We're Doing at Children's

Children's Hospital Colorado certainly isn't immune to this national problem, but we are doing everything we can to proactively respond. We continue to recruit scarce pediatric specialists to provide care to our patients, conduct research, provide innovative interventions and teach the next generation of pediatric providers. Just in the last year we have recruited more than 100 physicians to practice at Children's and have committed resources for the recruitment of many more.

Ranked as one of the best children's hospitals in the country, Children's provides an unequaled environment for them to treat their patients. One of our strategic goals is to grow our already successful research enterprise which means recruiting physician scientists from across the country. This effort, coupled with enhanced support for the talented medical staff already practicing inside Children's, will mitigate some of these national challenges.

Advocate for Pediatric Specialists

Finally, we need to advocate for fair and equitable reimbursement for our pediatric specialists. The various health care reform proposals intended to improve the supply of and reimbursement for physicians did not include provision for pediatric specialists. With NACHRI and our partners at other children's hospitals, we are working to convince legislators to improve Medicaid reimbursement levels for pediatric specialists and asking Congress to support $320 million funding for the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) fund.

The more advocates who support our cause, the more we directly impact successful health outcomes for our children. If you feel compelled, please join our grassroots advocacy network (GAN) to help influence legislation to reverse the national trend of pediatric specialties.