The “Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act”, S. 2279, is a piece of legislation that could have extensive repercussions for veteran health care, according to the nation’s largest anesthesiology trade group.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) announced this month that they have exercised caution about passing S. 2279 because of one provision the Society calls “misguided”. The provision in question would remove physician anesthesiologists from surgery and will replace them with nurses instead. The end result, according to the Society, would be jeopardy for veterans’ safety and a lower standard of care.
That isn’t the main goal of the bill; the stated purpose of the act is to ease the transition of military health care providers to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But as so often happens with legislation, the act contains a provision that the ASA believes is dangerous.
In short, the bill, if passed, would “eliminate the existing and proven model of care where physician anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists work together as a team”, according to an ASA press release. ASA has raised concerns over a provision that would grant independent practice for all APNs, stating that nurse anesthetists shouldn’t be included in the mandated “full practice authority” initiative.
Sponsors of the bill state that the provision is to relieve overstaffed VA hospitals. But according to the ASA, there is no shortage of either physician anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists in the VA system – leading some in the industry to question the provision.
Right now, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in the Senate. It has not progressed out of committee and is unlikely to before the end of the year, due to the Senate’s holiday calendar. There is no indication from the White House regarding its intent to sign or veto the bill.
For more information, please consult the press release from the ASA here.