California Hospitals Cut Back Pediatric Beds, Analysis Shows
Between 1998 and 2007, California hospitals eliminated more than 800 in-patient pediatric beds, a reduction of 19%, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis (Yoshino, Los Angeles Times, 1/25).
The analysis is based on data from the state Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and the U.S. Census (United Press International, 1/24).
Moreover, the analysis found that more than 65 hospitals in California have cut their children's units altogether or closed, and more than 24 other hospitals have scaled back the number of beds that they allocate specifically to pediatric inpatient services.
The situation has resulted in pediatric services increasingly being consolidated in California's eight regional children's hospitals.
According to the Times, most counties north of Sacramento County do not have any hospital beds dedicated to pediatric patients.
The analysis did not consider intensive care beds for children and infants.
At present, California has roughly one licensed pediatric bed per 2,500 children.
Finances at the Heart of the Issue
The Times reports that many hospitals have eliminated pediatric beds to focus more on services for adults, which are more lucrative for hospitals.
Diana Dooley, CEO of the California Children's Hospital Association, said the situation is exacerbated by low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for children's health care, which she says are the lowest in the nation.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
The cutbacks in pediatric beds have proceeded "without serious, coordinated analysis of how the losses statewide could affect the quality of care," especially as some areas are expected to see jumps in population, the Times reports.
UCLA researcher Dylan Roby said it is unclear how many pediatric beds are needed in California because the issue has not been studied adequately.
In the next few months, researchers at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research are expected to release a report that finds that staffed pediatric beds are not keeping up with the pace of the population (Los Angeles Times, 1/25).
Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina has sounded alarm over cutbacks in pediatric beds at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, which has lost more pediatric beds than any other hospital in the state, according to the Times.
Officials at the county Department of Health Services maintain that the facility will be able to provide the same level of care by providing more services on an outpatient basis (Therolf, Los Angeles Times, 1/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.