FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (ABC7) — Some pediatric offices in Virginia are at risk of going out of business as patient appointments plummet during the pandemic.
Child vaccination rates are dropping across the county as many parents and caregivers avoid doctors’ offices due to the novel coronavirus. Despite physicians’ urging patients to stay connected through telehealth and in-person visits, there is a growing disconnect between the two groups.
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing are forcing a creative approach to pediatrics, from online checkups and the return of the house call.
When patients stopped coming to the office, Fairfax Pediatric Associates rented a van and hit the road in March.
“If you’re willing to have your dinner delivered, you certainly should be willing to have your vaccines come to you,” said Dr. Sandy Chung.
Chung is also the Virginia chapter president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The organization surveyed more than 100 providers and found one in three infants are behind on vaccines and 75 percent of teens and adolescence do not have up-to-date shots.
Fairfax Pediatric Associates’ van with a nurse and nurse practitioner or doctor, will drive to the houses or apartment buildings of young clients to administer vaccines.
“None of us thought we would be where we are today,” said Chung.
While the mobile clinic is helping, many doctors’ offices are feeling the financial strain of the dramatic decrease in preventative medicine.
“We’ve had practices, including my own, who have had to lay off individuals or furlough individuals, reduce hours. There are practices that had to close locations,” she explained.
The federal government’s financial assistance program called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, is helping some healthcare businesses but not all.
“The CARES Act has provided Medicare money for Medicare practices. What you may not realize is that pediatricians don’t take Medicare, it’s for elderly patients. So, all the efforts to save practices and your doctors’ offices, does not go to your pediatrician’s offices,” said Chung.
The commonwealth’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics says some Virginia practices will go out of business but there is something families can do to help.
“Just do their normal well visits and that will really help out your child, your family, your pediatrician to ensure that we’re around when you need us, we’re there to answer the call,” said Chung.