August 6, 1997 in Nation/World

Idaho Last In Per Capita Pediatricians Whooping Cough Outbreak Cited As Result Of Shortage

From Staff And Wire Reports Sta
 

Idaho, long plagued by problems with access to medical services, ranks last in the nation in the number of pediatricians to care for its children, according to a new national study.

Paul Miles, who heads the Idaho chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Idaho needs more than twice as many pediatricians as it now has to assure the health of children.

“Children who have access to quality pediatric care have better outcomes,” Miles said.

He specifically cited the whooping cough outbreak in North Idaho earlier this year that affected 200 children, killing one. The potential for preventing such outbreaks with more doctors, he suggested, is underscored by Idaho having the worst infant immunization rate in the country.

“That kind of pediatric care would make a difference,” Miles said.

North Idaho medical professionals don’t necessarily share that view.

Coeur d’Alene has no shortage of pediatricians or family doctors, yet that didn’t prevent pertussis in Kootenai County.

“It’s very difficult to make sweeping statements based on a few numbers,” said Marie Rau, nursing supervisor at the Panhandle Health District. “Family doctors have immunizations there…(and) immunizations are available throughout the state through the health districts.”

Kootenai Medical Center did a survey about a year ago to determine whether the area had a shortage of doctors, said KMC’s vice president of medical affairs, Joe Bujak.

“As far as Kootenai County is concerned, we didn’t have any shortage of pediatricians,” he said.

The new study said pediatricians tend to cluster in more affluent areas, and that seemed to be borne out in Idaho, where more than a quarter of the statewide corps is located in the Boise area.

That situation reflects the state’s lack of doctors in general in rural areas and explains its standing as the state with the lowest ratio of doctors to the overall population.

“I don’t think that we have particular concern that the number of pediatricians is low as long as the health care needs of Idaho children are being met by primary care providers,” state Health Division administrator Dick Schultz said.

And he pointed out that several programs are starting to attract more primary care providers to rural communities.

In North Idaho, family doctors generally handle the needs of children, unless special circumstances require a pediatrician.

“We have a very strong family practice physician community,” Bujak said. “It’s the tradition in that group to want to see families.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: HOW IDAHO RANKS Idaho has only 90 practicing pediatricians 18.5 for every 100,000 children. That compares with the national average of 48.6 for every 100,000 children. Wyoming ranks just above Idaho with 20 pediatricians for every 100,000 kids, and Maryland leads the states with 84 per 100,000. The District of Columbia has 178 children’s doctors for each 100,000 kids.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = From staff and wire reports Staff writer Susan Drumheller contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: HOW IDAHO RANKS Idaho has only 90 practicing pediatricians 18.5 for every 100,000 children. That compares with the national average of 48.6 for every 100,000 children. Wyoming ranks just above Idaho with 20 pediatricians for every 100,000 kids, and Maryland leads the states with 84 per 100,000. The District of Columbia has 178 children’s doctors for each 100,000 kids.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = From staff and wire reports Staff writer Susan Drumheller contributed to this report.

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