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Every doctor in the adolescent medicine department at Dell Children’s Medical Center, an acute care pediatric hospital in Austin, Texas, left the hospital this month following an investigation into the hospital’s gender-affirming care services, The Guardian reported.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the investigation May 5, claiming the hospital engaged in “potentially illegal” activity in providing gender-affirming care to minors.
Texas’s legislature approved a bill on May 17 that bans gender-affirming care for children, but the bill still requires final approval from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, NPR reported.
It’s unclear if the hospital fired the doctors or if they chose to leave of their own accord. It’s also unclear how many doctors left the hospital. Ascension, the Catholic-affiliated health system that owns Dell Children’s, did not respond to Healthcare Brew’s request for comment.
“We are working with our staff, families, and other providers to ensure our patients’ safety and make sure we are helping families connect with the appropriate healthcare services,” Dell Children’s said in a statement sent to The Guardian. “While the physicians who previously staffed the clinic will be departing, the clinic remains open and supported by other physicians within Dell Children’s Medical Group.”
In a statement to KXAN, Ascension reiterated that the clinic “has not closed.”
“We continue to be advocates for the best possible care and treatment for children in Central Texas,” Ascension’s statement said.
The Texas attorney general’s investigation into Dell Children’s came after far-right group Project Veritas published a video allegedly showing a hospital social worker saying Dell Children’s provides certain gender-affirming care services for children as young as eight or nine years old, sometimes after a single consultation, according to the Texas Tribune.
After the video was published, Dell Children’s released a statement saying: “Our organization prohibits surgery and prescribing hormone therapy for the treatment of gender dysphoria for children. While our pediatric and adolescent medicine clinics do not provide these interventions, we do provide a safe and welcoming place for children to receive other forms of primary care and treatment, including treatment of illness and injuries, well-baby visits, and school physicals. We are conducting a thorough review of this situation. To the extent that care provided at our clinic may have been inconsistent with our organization’s position on this important issue, we intend to take appropriate action.”
Texas’s gender-affirming care ban conflicts with the American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines, which has stated that the care is medically necessary.
“The AMA opposes the dangerous intrusion of government into the practice of medicine and the criminalization of health care decision-making,” Michael Suk, an AMA board member, said in a statement. “Gender-affirming care is medically necessary, evidence-based care that improves the physical and mental health of transgender and gender-diverse people.”
Kellan Baker, executive director and chief learning officer at Whitman-Walker Health, a nonprofit community health center based in Washington, DC, that specializes in LGBTQIA+ health, told Healthcare Brew that the goal of bans like the one in Texas is to create an environment of fear.
“You don’t even need a ban, you just need a threat of a ban to start shutting down portals to care,” he said. “The goal is to keep them in such a posture of fear of what could happen to them as a result of providing standard medical care to transgender people of any age, that they cease to provide that care.”
And situations like Dell Children’s are likely to continue happening at hospitals in states where gender-affirming care is banned, Baker added.
“There’s already a shortage of pediatricians, particularly specialists. And these politicians that are making the decision to drive these providers out of their states are really doing a huge disservice to all of their residents, not just trans people.”
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