A survey conducted by the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) shows that pediatric specialists are struggling to keep their practices viable in the wake of the shutdown. As a result, children in America may suffer medical outcomes not anticipated in first-world countries.
AAPOS conducted the survey of its members in April, one month after the shutdown, to assess the effects of the pandemic on private and institutional pediatric ophthalmology practices. The results are sobering and portend access-of-care issues for children with blinding conditions and life-threatening diseases.
While all sectors of pediatric ophthalmology were affected by the reduction in patient volume, private practices were the hardest hit. Among the survey’s findings:
“This is an alarming, important and pivotal moment in the history of medicine,” said Shira L. Robbins, MD, professor of Ophthalmology at the Shiley Eye Institute, University of California-San Diego, who led the survey effort. “We appeal to the legislative bodies to support pediatric ophthalmologists to champion eye health and vision of our most valuable commodity – our children.”
Dr. Robbins stressed that pediatric ophthalmologists have limited access to federal financial assistance programs because the assistance is based on treating elderly Medicare patients, while other assistance programs have left many fixed practice expenses uncovered and only partially covered staff and physician salaries.
AAPOS conducted a follow-up survey in July to gauge the extent of the recovery since the initial shock of the April shutdown. While it shows some improvement, many pediatric ophthalmologists continue to struggle to remain in business. Dr. Robbins predicts that as the pandemic continues, so will the strain on the delivery of medical care. Among the topline results:
“Pediatric ophthalmologists are rare medical subspecialists with the majority working in private practices,” said Kathy Lee, MD, PhD, president of AAPOS. “Without continued governmental financial support, many will not be able to sustain their practices contributing to an even greater access problem for children with eye problems.”