The ability of emergency physicians in a general community hospital to manage pediatric patients was evaluated. Essential diagnostic and therapeutic procedures performed in the emergency department on pediatric patients transferred for admission to a tertiary care center were compared with those initially performed on the same patients by the pediatricians and residents of the tertiary care center. The overall care rendered by the emergency physicians correlated well with that of the referral center. Ninety one per cent of diagnostic studies and 96% of therapeutic interventions were performed in the emergency department. Implications for the care of seriously ill pediatric patients by emergency physicians and the role of community hospital emergency departments in pediatric emergency medical services (EMS) systems are discussed.