Physician Anesthesiologists Urge Americans to Oppose VA Policy Abandoning Team-based Anesthesia Care in Surgery - American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)

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Physician Anesthesiologists Urge Americans to Oppose VA Policy Abandoning Team-based Anesthesia Care in Surgery

Time Running Out to Protect Veterans’ Care, Health and Lives

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. – Americans who care about the safety and welfare of our nation’s Veterans have two weeks to take action to stop a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposed policy that would lower the standard of care in VA medical facilities and jeopardize Veterans’ lives by removing physician anesthesiologists from the operating room.

The policy replaces physician anesthesiologists with nurses, abandoning a proven model of care where physician anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists work together as a team to provide Veterans high-quality and safe anesthesia. 

The comment period for the proposed policy, which was published in the Federal Register May 25, ends July 25.  To date, more than 56,000 Americans have commented, which is the second highest number of comments received to the Federal Register this year.

“We’re encouraged by the outpouring so far but the comment period is about to end and there’s never been a more important time to speak out to protect our Veterans,” said Daniel J. Cole, M.D., president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. “I urge all Americans to visit www.safevacare.org today to say no to this dangerous policy.”

“Surgery and anesthesia are inherently dangerous requiring physician involvement, particularly for Veterans who are sicker and often have multiple medical conditions that put them at greater risk for complications,” Dr. Cole said.

The policy change is based on a shortage of some types of physicians in VA. However, there is no shortage of physician anesthesiologists and the change is not needed to improve access to anesthesia care in surgery.  

The VA’s own Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI) could not discern “whether more complex surgeries can be safely managed by CRNAs.” In fact, there are no independent studies that show nurses can ensure the same outcomes as physician anesthesiologists.

The policy also conflicts with state laws that recognize the importance of physician involvement in the delivery of anesthesia. The leading experts on anesthesia care in the VA, the Chiefs of Anesthesiology, have twice expressed concern that the new policy “would directly compromise patient safety and limit our ability to provide quality care to Veterans.”  

The proposed policy would have all advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), including nurse anesthetists, practice without the collaboration, supervision or other involvement of a physician. Individual VA hospitals will be expected to abandon the proven model of team-based anesthesia care that ensures patients have access to a physician anesthesiologist if an emergency or complication occurs. Under the new policy, Veterans will not have access to physician anesthesiologists.

More information about the proposed policy and physician anesthesiologists is available at safevacare.org.


THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS®
Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA®) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves. 
 
For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at asahq.org. To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount.

 
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