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Physicians criticize proposal to let qualified nurses administer anesthesia

Syringe with drip
ZaldyImg / Flickr CC / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Some physicians say that eliminating the requirement for a nurse anesthetist to be supervised by a doctor would put patient safety at risk.

Physicians are coming out against a bill in Lansing that would make it easier for qualified nurses to administer anesthesia.
Currently, a physician has to sign off and supervise while a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist gives anesthesia to a patient.
Senate Bill 550 would give hospitals the option to end that mandate.

Matt Resch is a spokesperson for the Michigan Society of Anesthesiologists. He says getting rid of that requirement would put patient safety at risk.
“I think some people may think it’s just as simple as falling asleep and waking back up. But it’s a very serious and complicated medical procedure," Resch said.

Resch says physicians and physician anesthesiologists are trained to make life-saving decisions in the event of side effects such as cardiac arrest.

"Having that supervision requirement is incredibly important for other things that could happen that may not fall under the auspices or the responsibilities of the nurse anesthetist," he said.

Supporters of the bill say ending the requirement could lower health care costs — especially for the state's small, rural hospitals.

"I think that patients would argue that when it comes to their health and safety, cost should not be the first priority," Resch said.

He says insurance companies reimburse the same for anesthesia care, whether it is provided by a nurse anesthetist or an anesthesiologist, so there is no difference in cost.

Resch says the current law gives patients the best possible care.

"And we shouldn’t turn back the clock back on that and remove that layer of supervision and protection," he said.

Paulette is a digital media reporter and producer for Michigan Public. She started as a newsroom intern at the station in 2014 and has taken on various roles in that time, including filling in as an on-air host.
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