In response to concerns from ASA, key Members of Congress and other Veteran's health stakeholders, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has agreed to discuss with ASA and other stakeholders the VHA's Office of Nursing Service (ONS) "VHA Nursing Handbook," a nursing policy document that would eliminate team-based anesthesia care to Veterans. At a recent hearing of the House of Representatives' Veterans' Affairs Health Subcommittee, the VA's Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Health, Robert Jesse, M.D., Ph.D., pledged that "We will not move anything forward until we've had robust discussions with external stakeholders including the societies. I know ASA is very interested in this. I know the family practice folks are very interested. AMA is very interested and I can tell you that this will not move forward until we have had those discussions with all of the stakeholders." Dr. Jesse's comments came in response to questioning from Congressman Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD-1).
ASA President Jane C.K. Fitch, M.D. responded to Dr. Jesse's announcement by sending a formal communication to the Principal Deputy Under Secretary seeking to schedule the meeting to discuss the "Nursing Handbook" and its conflict with the current "Anesthesia Service" Handbook, the policy document that supports team-based care. On previous occasions, Dr. Fitch has requested meetings with the VA Under Secretary for Health, Robert Petzel, M.D. The requests were declined.
ASA lobbyists have received reports that, in response to the hearing, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetist (AANA) has urged its members to contact Members of Congress in support of the new “Nursing Handbook" and in support of eliminating team-based care within the VA.
To date, members of ASA's Grassroots Network have generated over 2,900 communications with Capitol Hill expressing concerns about the "VHA Nursing Handbook."
Additionally, ASA has engaged key members of the Veteran's community to raise concerns about changes to team-based anesthesia care in VA facilities. All ASA members are urged to convey their concerns about the ONS' initiative to their Member of Congress and U.S. Senators.
Transcript of Related Portion of Hearing
Dr. Fitch Letter to Dr. Jesse
Grassroots Call to Action