Children’s Hospital Faces Budget Cuts

Children’s Hospital Boston, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, stands to lose $21 million in funding for the training of new pediatricians if President Obama’s tightened budget proposal passes in Congress for the 2012 fiscal year.

The proposal, released earlier this month, cuts a $317.5 million government program that funds the training of 40 percent of future pediatricians across the nation.

While non-pediatric training programs receive federal funds through Medicare, graduate training at children’s hospitals has traditionally received funds through the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program.

Children’s Hospital Boston has the largest graduate training program in the country, according to Josh Greenberg, the hospital’s vice president for government relations.

He said that it is too early to tell the outcome of the federal budget and its impact on the hospital.

“If we have to cut portions of the training program, we’ll have to make hard choices,” he said.

Congress has been locked in a battle over the budget for the past two weeks, opening the possibility for a government shutdown.

In an e-mailed statement to The Crimson, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry said that he has been in contact with Children’s Hospital and is currently looking for alternative items to cut from the budget.

“Cutting Children’s Hospital Boston is just vexing,” Kerry said in the e-mail. “This hospital has the largest graduate medical education program in the country and I don’t know why you’d risk our hospitals’ ability to train more than one-third of our nation’s pediatricians when we’re already facing serious national shortages in pediatric subspecialties.”

Kerry said that he was working with Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania on a bill to reauthorize and fund Children’s Hospital Boston’s training program before it expires at the end of September.

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown could not be reached for comment.

Greenberg said that he and officials representing the National Association of Children’s Hospitals have been in talks with members of both Houses of Congress.

“We need to be in a conversation with the House and the Senate as to the importance of this program,” Greenberg said. “One thing that’s working for us is that it’s always been seen as a bipartisan program.”

NACH President Lawrence McAndrews expressed concern that the potential cuts could slow the addition of new doctors to an already underpopulated workforce.

“The proposed elimination of the CHGME program would have a dramatic negative effect on the pediatric workforce pipeline at a time when children’s timely access to pediatric care is already impaired,” he said.

—Staff writer Benjamin M. Scuderi can be reached at bscuderi@college.harvard.edu.

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