Surgeries at two Providence hospitals were down by almost 50% in December and January amid an anesthesiologist shortage, The Oregonian reported Feb. 9.
The delay comes after the hospitals' anesthesia staffing was taken over by a private equity-backed physician staffing firm. The new contractor, Sound Physicians, did not have enough staffers to handle the volume of the two Portland, Ore.-based hospitals.
The hospitals canceled several hundred surgeries in November — nearly all the nonemergent procedures scheduled through the end of the year.
The group is making good progress, a spokesperson told The Oregonian, despite the hospitals performing 3,653 surgeries in December and January versus 7,108 the year prior.
"That's 51% of our previous volume, and we are adding available surgical and procedure times each week," a spokesperson wrote in an email to the publication. "We are on track to be back to our typical levels in the next few weeks."
"Sound Physicians began providing anesthesia services as Providence Portland and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center on November 22, 2023," a spokesperson for Sound Physicians told Becker's in an email. "We have made significant progress in our recruiting efforts and to date are about 75% staffed across both locations. We are steadily increasing points of service and anticipate exceeding the previous group’s volume by late spring."
"Part of the reason we chose to make this switch is the need to provide consistent anesthesia coverage for our patients and surgeons. Our previous agreement with Oregon Anesthesia Group created a situation in which patients had to wait for services while we prioritized cases based on availability of anesthesia services. When we terminated the previous contract, there were fewer than 54 providers available to serve Providence St. Vincent and Providence Portland medical centers," a spokesperson for Providence told Becker's in an email. "It’s important to keep in mind that we made this decision because of concerns raised by our physicians about anesthesia availability. Patients were already waiting for services before we decided to contract with a new provider."
According to the spokesperson, by March, South Physician will be staffing 19 anesthesia locations on average, which will be 107% of the level it had with its former anesthesia provider.
"We will be in an even better position later this spring, and firmly believe the actions we have taken – difficult as they have been – are in the best interest of our patients and our physicians," the statement said.