2 hospitals to reduce surgeries due to anesthesiologist shortages

Portland, Ore.-based  Providence Portland Medical Center and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center plan to restrict the number of surgeries they perform in late November and December this year due to a shortage of anesthesiologists, according to an Oct. 19 report from Oregon Live. 

Officials expect the shortage to persist at least through the end of the year, according to the report. 

Providence Portland Medical Center "will only be able to accommodate emergency and OB cases" from Nov. 22 to Nov. 26, according to an internal Providence memo published by Oregon Live. 

The postponement may continue after the Thanksgiving holiday as well. The memo continued, "The access to the ORs (operating rooms) and procedural areas at Providence St. Vincent will probably be severely restricted during December 2023." The Renton, Wash.-based health system did not say how many surgeries would be postponed or how many patients are affected.

The anesthesiologist shortage is not unique to Oregon, as health systems nationwide have faced challenges due to a decline in trained anesthesia professionals. 

Between 2021 and 2022, more than 2,872 anesthesiologists left the workforce, with a predicted shortage of 12,500 anesthesiologists by 2033. 

ASC leaders are concerned about the shortages impacting both patient care and their bottom lines.

"Particularly, anesthesia is a massive issue that all of us are affected by. The shift of inpatient to outpatient cases is a given, but this trend may be slowed by the abysmal Medicare reimbursement for anesthesia cases," Andrew Lovewell, CEO at Columbia (Mo.) Orthopaedic Group, told Becker's. "When salaries, wages and benefits are higher for an outpatient total joint than the anesthesia reimbursement we have a problem. This is a double-edged sword as the case migration needs to happen to save Medicare money on the facility side, but [Medicare] has to step up the anesthesia reimbursement if this is going to work."

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