Physicians providing medical care for the Department of Defense (DOD) in Europe are actively looking for doctors who are willing to prescribe hormone therapy and other sex-change treatments for U.S. military kids living abroad, Stars and Stripes reported Wednesday.
Currently, the DOD has only one doctor in Europe specializing in transgender treatments for children, which is what has prompted the decision to stop medical treatment and counseling for new patients, Stars and Stripes reported, citing military health officials.
Doctors at the U.S. military medical facilities in Europe have stepped up referring patients to local health care centers and are now looking to locate more providers who will accept the Pentagon’s military health plan, Tricare.
Tricare is “actively working to identify additional clinics who can provide care” to children of American service members trying to change their gender, a spokesperson for the Landstuhl hospital serving the Rheinland-Pfalz Army base in Germany, told Stars and Stripes.
Due to staff shortages at Landstuhl, they were forced to stop accepting new patients in October, the spokesperson said.
Landstuhl remains the sole U.S. military hospital in Europe offering transgender services, including counseling, hormone therapy and puberty blockers, to those under 18, Defense Health Agency spokesperson Peter Graves told Stars and Stripes.
Those services have been paid for under Tricare, since 2016, although the program currently does not support sex change surgeries for minors.
According to Reuters, a study found that the number of transgender minors in the military health system increased from 135 in 2010 to 528 within the first four months of 2017.
Just two clinics within an hour’s drive of Landstuhl offer transition-related procedures, Stars and Stripes reported.
German medical professionals say American children should be able to obtain regular, patient-specific visits with gender transition providers in English.
“These are in-depth conversations about gender identity,” Stephanie Lehmann-Kannt, a pediatric endocrinologist at Saarland University Hospital in Homburg, told Stars and Stripes. “It is not enough that the patient says, ‘I’d like to be a girl,’ and receives puberty blockers,” she said.
Germany mandates those wishing to transition to complete 12 or more counseling sessions before starting on hormones, since both testosterone and estrogen treatments can lead to long-term negative effects on fertility, Lehmann-Kannt told Stars and Stripes.
She has turned down patients from two American military families in the last couple of years, citing a busy practice and inability to provide long-term care for the patients, according to Stars and Stripes.
The U.S. has one of the world’s most relaxed transgender treatment regulations, according to a study by Do No Harm. Most European countries have implemented greater hurdles to accessing puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sex change operations, determining that most or all treatments available are experimental.