Pediatric practices seeing surge in office visits amid staffing shortages, COVID testing demand
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics says pediatric practices across Virginia are unable to keep up with the demand for office visits and COVID testing as students return back to the classroom.
In a statement posted on the Facebook page for the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Michael Martin said the pediatric offices and outpatient centers in Virginia are, “underwater as a result of staff shortages, provider burnout and an extraordinary increase in demand for COVID testing required by schools and daycare facilities.”
Dr. Martin, president of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said this has been an ongoing issue since the summer, but the demand grew with the start of the school year.
“It has created a perfect hurricane for us, pediatricians that really started probably in July, August,” he said. “We had a number of folks who were bringing their kids in, who hadn’t been in for quite a while, for their checkups and vaccines.”
Dr. Martin says pediatric offices are also seeing staffing shortages, ranging from pediatricians and nurses to front desk staff.
“In many places, there’s actually more pediatricians than support staff, which means now the job of getting vitals, vaccinating and many outpatients settings are being left to the pediatrician, which simply means they can’t see as many patients,” he said. “There’s even practices that have had to close one of their sites temporarily because of the inability to get people checked in and not to have that support staff. It’s been pretty devastating to us.”
Dr. Martin says these factors are also contributing to a lack of immediate appointments for checkups, which he said many pediatricians are now booking for November or December.
He also says this is not only impacting pediatric offices but hospitals as they see a rise in demand for COVID-19 patients.
“We are already backlogged with checkups. Many of us are booking out to November,” said Dr. Martin. “Still can’t get in all the kids. There’s still kids who haven’t been vaccinated for school appropriately,” said Dr. Martin.
Dr. Martin believes there’s a financial need to help pediatric practices recruit and retain employees.
“I think there’s a need to help practices in outpatient settings to be competitive,” he said. “Not only that but damage control and retain the staff they have by giving out retention bonuses.”
To meet the significant need for COVID testing, the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends testing of asymptomatic children get done at alternative sites or through the schools themselves.
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