Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) Monday spoke at PSE&G Children's Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick about the importance of addressing the shortage of pediatric doctors in New Jersey.
Last week, he introduced legislation to address this shortage of primary and specialty pediatric physicians by funding training programs for physicians to learn these specialties. The bi-partisan legislation reauthorizes the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Payment Program to help keep well-trained doctors in the pipeline by maintaining existing hospital graduate medical education programs.
"The small number of hospitals that receive this funding train approximately 40 percent of all pediatricians," said Pallone. "When parents take their sick children to the doctor, they rightfully expect that person will be able to treat and diagnose their child. This program ensures that doctor is prepared to treat the unique needs of children and has a major impact on our country's ability to provide high quality health care for children."
The program is the only way New Jersey will continue to have enough doctors to treat current and future patients. In New Jersey, 1 in 94 children have Autism and to date, there are only 21 licensed physicians in New Jersey specially trained to treat these children. The average age of these doctors is 57.
"This funding is crucial for patients like ours," said Amy B. Mansue, president and CEO of Children's Specialized Hospital. "It is about ensuring care for children five, ten, or twenty years from now. We want to make sure future physicians have the best training possible. And we appreciate Rep. Pallone's efforts."
Legislation introduced by Pallone fills a crucial funding gap left by the president's failure to fund this program in the 2012 budget. The gap comes from a proposed reduction of $48 million, or 15% overall, in funding. This represents a 10-year setback. The CHGME Program has been a major success and has enjoyed broad bipartisan support. It has been hailed as instrumental in reversing declines in pediatric training programs in the 1990s that threatened the stability of the pediatric workforce.
Children's Specialized Hospital is the nation's largest pediatric rehabilitation hospital in the United States, treating more than 18,000 with specialized healthcare needs every year. The hospital is also the largest provider of services for children with autism in the state.
The CHGME legislation maintains the discretionary funding levels for the program by providing $330 million to hospitals over the next five years.
Nationwide, 56 hospitals in 30 states participate in the program which funds education programs for medical school graduates, enhances hospitals' research capabilities and improves hospitals' ability to provide care to vulnerable and underserved children. In 2009, the program supported the training of 5,361 resident physicians.
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