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Nurse anesthetist bill divides Pa. medical community

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The Pennsylvania medical community is divided on legislation that would limit the role of certified registered nurse anesthetists in the state.

Pennsylvania House Bill 1603, introduced by Beaver County Republican Rep. Jim Christiana, would prohibit CRNAs from providing anesthesia care in a hospital without supervision of an anesthesiologist or a physician.

In its weekly Capitol update by Scot Chadwick, the Pennsylvania Medical Society called the bill an “important patient safety measure” and said a vote by the entire House could come as soon as this week.

The Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists, however, says that, if passed, the bill would limit access to high-quality health care, especially in rural areas and at small hospitals, and potentially increase costs for patients seeking certain surgical procedures. PANA President Jason Bauer also said the bill “creates a slippery slope to limit their role in other outpatient settings managed by gastroenterologists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, ophthalmologists and other specialty providers.”

“House Bill 1603 would limit CRNAs ability to practice in Pennsylvania — a proposal that would put the commonwealth at odds with at least 33 other states that have come to recognize the value of CRNAs in health-care settings,” a PANA news release said. “Numerous studies show CRNAs provide high-quality anesthesia care, even for rare and difficult procedures; and that as demand for health care continues to grow, increasing the number of CRNAs will be a key to containing costs while maintaining quality care.”

PANA said other opponents of the bill include The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association and individual gastroenterologists across the commonwealth.

According to PANA, there are more than 3,000 CRNAs in Pennsylvania today.

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