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Massachusetts Protects Patients, Defeats Alarming Legislation

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Earlier this month, Massachusetts defeated legislation that would have eliminated existing patient safety laws requiring physician supervision of nurse anesthetists.  This accomplishment is a result of the Massachusetts Society of Anesthesiologists (MSA) and the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) working together to emphasize the importance of maintaining patient safety with quality, physician-led care.

The Massachusetts Association of Nurse Anesthetists, together with the Coalition of Nurse Practitioners, introduced legislation (H.2009 & S.1079) in the beginning of 2013 that would have authorized nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners to practice without any physician oversight. This legislation would have also removed the medical board from its current role in jointly regulating the scope of practice of nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners with the nursing board. The bills were supported by MA Nurses Association, AARP, and business interests, and the chief House sponsor obtained a letter of support from the Federal Trade Commission. The bills were opposed by the state medical society and medical specialty societies.

Working in coordination with the ASA, a vigorous and strategically focused grassroots campaign was mounted by the MSA to defeat the bills.  The response from physician anesthesiologists across the Commonwealth was impressive, and legislators heard and responded to the message of patient safety.

In May, the bills were sent to a study by the Legislature’s Public Health Committee, ending possible enactment of the legislation this session.  Following this, organized nursing had similar language attached to the state budget as an amendment. Working with in tandem with other state medical societies, the MSA’s patient safety focused members were able to convince lawmakers to remove this troubling amendment language from the final budget.

Congratulations to MSA for their successful work to protect and promote patient safety in Massachusetts!  The ASA and state component societies continue to advocate for the importance of patient-centered, physician-led care in state and federal legislatures, and active, coordinated responses like Massachusetts are key to success.

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