Surgical patients are being put at risk because a new California regulation allows nurse anesthetists to administer anesthesia without the supervision of a physician, claims a lawsuit filed against California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger by two large physician groups. The groups are concerned about the lack of supervision in these instances.
Under Medicare rules, a hospital may be allowed to let nurse anesthetists administer these procedures if the governor of that state signs a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requesting it.
Unlike many situations around the country, those bringing the suit feel there is not a shortage of anesthesiologists that nurses should need to carry out these duties. The California Hospital Association has historically supported independent practice by nurse anesthetists under the oversight of a physician. Others argue that the role of nurse anesthetists are vital at small and rural hospitals where anesthesiologists are not always available.
But Medicare rules also say the governor must consult with that state's Medical Board and Board of Nursing regarding issues such as the quality and accessibility of anesthesia services in the state, according to the physicians' lawsuit. The governor didn't consult with those licensing agencies, the physicians claim.