Washington hospital splits with anesthesia group: 4 things for ASC leaders to know

St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., part of Tacoma-based Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, recently cut ties with its anesthesia group, which has been struggling with staffing and recruiting issues.

Four things to know:

1. A spokesperson for a union representing hospital workers told The News Tribune that anesthesiologists have been leaving St. Joseph Medical Center for months.

2. Two sources tied to the health system on condition of anonymity told The News Tribune that Pacific Anesthesia is the group whose contract was terminated. However, in emailed comments to Becker's, the health system did not confirm Pacific Anesthesia was the group affected.

3. Pacific Anesthesia workers have told The News Tribune the group has had difficulties recruiting anesthesiologists for a while, partially because new graduates are more attracted to the Seattle and Portland, Ore., areas. In past interviews, workers also cited the high number of Medicare and Medicaid patients at St. Joseph as a factor in staffing challenges due to low reimbursement.

4. The health system told Becker's the situation does not affect anesthesia contracts at other Virginia Mason Franciscan Health facilities, and that surgeries at St. Joseph's have not been delayed.

Hospitals are not the only entities feeling the effects of the anesthesia staffing shortage; ASCs are also vastly affected. 

"The anesthesia staffing shortages are not easily solved, particularly as reimbursement shrinks in many markets," George Dickstein, MD, a gastroenterologist at Boston Endoscopy Center and chair of the department of medicine at MetroWest Medical Center in Natick, Mass., told Becker's. "Many ASCs are swallowing the bitter pill that they now have to supplement anesthesia pay with stipends or guaranteed day rates to keep sufficient staff. Discord between scope of practice among CRNAs and MDs does not help the matter."

Read the full News Tribune story here

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