November 27, 2006
New CMS Regulation Allows Unlocked Anesthesia Carts in Secure Areas
A new rule, effective Jan. 26, 2007, permits anesthesia carts to be unlocked as long as they are in a “secure area” such as an operating suite. Anesthesiologists and their hospitals have long been frustrated by a federal regulation, enforced by JCAHO, requiring anesthesia carts to be locked between cases whenever “authorized personnel” are not present in the room.
ASA has worked hard for several years to persuade CMS to recognize that locked carts create danger for patients when access to critical medications is barred, and that they do not protect against any real danger. In March 2005, ASA wrote a comment letter to CMS strongly supporting a proposed new regulation that would allow anesthesia carts to remain unlocked. Many ASA members submitted their own letters as well.
We are very pleased that CMS’ revised regulation, published in the Nov. 27, 2006 Federal Register, includes the changes we sought and will permit anesthesia drugs and reversal agents to remain in unlocked anesthesia carts in secure areas, including staffed ORs, critical care units and labor and delivery suites.
The CMS rewrite of the regulation removes a serious patient safety risk. Requiring locked anesthesia carts could potentially cost precious seconds—or more—when anesthesiologists must treat their patients in emergency situations.
The final rule does not affect Schedule II, III, IV and V drugs, which must still be kept in locked storage areas, also as urged by ASA