As physicians across Texas start to receive personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, pediatricians are pushing for another type of PPE: pre-participation examinations.
The Texas Pediatric Society (TPS) is urging the University Interscholastic League (UIL) to reconsider an amendment, passed May 1, that would waive PPE requirements for some junior and high school students who participate in activities such as athletics or band.
The amended rule, which is in effect only for the 2020-21 school year and is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, would require an exam only for students who previously had not received one. The state normally requires students in UIL activities to be examined by a physician or other health care professional before the first year of junior and high school, and again before the third high school year.
“These exams serve as an opportunity to address a myriad of medical and psychosocial issues not necessarily associated with sports participation, such as vaccinations and anticipatory guidance on nutrition, dealing with stress, and proper sleep hygiene,” TPS wrote to the UIL in a letter dated May 12. “A PPE acts as an important entry point for healthy adolescents into the health care system, which is even more important now due to significant changes in a youth’s life over the past several months due to COVID-19 (no school, no sports, no friends, etc.).”
The amendment comes as primary care practices – and pediatricians in particular – have seen unprecedented decreases in patient visits. The drop in patient visits has created a significant decrease in vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported.
“Pediatricians are making herculean efforts to ensure their practices are safe for patients by scheduling sick and preventive visits at different times of the day, creating separate entrances for sick and well patients, and thoroughly disinfecting throughout the day,” TPS’ letter says. “It is vital that the UIL continue to impress on school districts and families that seeking preventive care at the child’s pediatric medical home is essential health care, even during a pandemic.”
In a letter May 22, UIL said it “appreciates the efforts of Texas pediatricians who provide health care to children and adolescents of Texas,” but its position on PPE has not changed.
TPS plans to continue the dialogue with the UIL to ensure the voice of pediatric primary care is represented in its decision-making process.
Last month, the Texas Medical Association, TPS, and 29 other state medical societies and organizations called on Gov. Greg Abbott to implement a multi-point plan to help struggling practices, such as pediatricians.
Details of the plan include directing Medicaid to implement advanced payments for physicians, similar to Medicare’s, to provide reliable cash flow.
The groups also asked the governor to direct Medicaid and state-regulated health plans to temporarily authorize the use of telemedicine for well-child visits, as well as to suspend prior authorization requirements.
You can find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.