Atrium Health, formerly Carolinas HealthCare System, said it ended its contract with the anesthesiology group that’s been providing care at its hospitals and clinics for nearly four decades. At the heart of this, is a dispute over how many patients anesthesiologists should be caring for simultaneously.
Atrium Health has contracted with Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants or its parent company, Mednax, for 37 years. The nearly 100-doctor group said it was surprised by the change. Atrium hired a consultant to develop a new anesthesiology model, according to a staff memo provided by Atrium. Atrium said that consultant company, Scope Anesthesia, will be the new anesthesiology provider.
Meanwhile, the current provider, Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants, said in a letter to surgeons that these changes will likely reduce the staff of physician anesthesiologists in the system by about 30 percent. When asked to respond to that accusation, Atrium sent WFAE a staff memo. That memo said the current anesthesiology group falsely claims staffing levels would be drastically reduced.
Staffing matters because anesthesiologists regularly care for surgery simultaneously with the help of a team of other medical providers, like nurse anesthetists. The American Society of Anesthesiologists said it recommends a physician anesthesiologist be responsible for no more than four patients at a time. That’s in line with what a representative of the Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants said is currently in place at Atrium.
Dr. Kraig de Lanzac is on the Board Of Directors for the American Society of Anesthesiologists. He said having a close watch on patients before, during and after surgery is important to make sure the patient responds well to the anesthesia.
“Once you get above four patients, it gets to be extremely difficult logistically to deliver the type of care that we want to as physician anesthesiologist,” he said.
Atrium said the contract with the current anesthesiologists will end June 30. The current Atrium Surgeon- in-Chief Dr. Brent Matthews said in a statement, “Atrium Health has the resources necessary and available to ensure that our surgical services will not be interrupted. The care and safety of our patients are our top priority and at no time during this transition period will patient safety be compromised.”
The new company Atrium is contracting with, Scope Anesthesia, has posted several anesthesiologist jobs on its website. According to both the staff memo provided by Atrium and the Southeast Anesthesiology Consultant's letter, the current doctors in the group aren't able to work for the new provider because of language in their contracts.
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