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Park Ridge, Illinois—As Veteran’s Day approaches on Nov. 11, 2017, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is concerned about veterans having to endure long delays for needed healthcare due to the underuse and mismanagement of anesthesia services in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities.
Recent information about wait times at the Denver Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center showed that 65 to 90 surgeries had been canceled or postponed over a three-month period due to a lack of anesthesia support, although the VA claimed earlier this year that there was not an access to anesthesia care problem in VHA facilities. Delays like those at the Denver facility also are being experienced on a daily basis by veterans at other facilities across the United States.
“Access to care is a problem across the VHA system because of bad decision-making by the VA with regard to CRNA scope of practice and what constitutes acceptable anesthesia practice models in VHA facilities,” said AANA President Bruce Weiner, DNP, MSNA, CRNA. “If all 18 anesthesia providers at the Denver facility actually provided hands-on anesthesia care, including the eight anesthesiologists who currently are there ‘just in case they are needed,’ the facility would increase its opportunities for patient care by nearly 80 percent!”
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), who serve as the primary anesthesia provider in the military, are also the main hands-on providers of anesthesia care in VA facilities, but have not yet been granted full practice authority. Granting CRNAs full practice authority would enable both CRNAs and anesthesiologists to use the full extent of their education, training and licensure to help reduce surgical and anesthesia wait times.
“Providing the men and women who have served in the U.S. military with the highest quality care possible in the VHA system is of paramount importance,” said Weiner. “By granting full practice authority to CRNAs, the VA would make full use of more than 900 CRNAs already practicing in VHA facilities, ensuring our nation’s veterans have access to essential surgical, emergency, obstetric and pain management healthcare services without needless delays or having to travel long distances for care.
“Veterans deserve timely access to anesthesia services administered by qualified anesthesia providers,” he said. “The time is now for CRNAs to be granted full practice authority in VA facilities so we can help reduce surgical wait times for our veterans.”