Sunday, May 4, 2008

Anaesthetist shortages cause Surgical Waits

I picked this story up from New Zealand about the lack of anesthetists. I can only comment that in my own situation, anaesthesia shortages play a major role in the amount of surgical time available and surgical wait times. The problem is that the publicly funded pay scales are tight enough that when there are too many anesthetists (even a few too many) it impacts them enough financially that they do not want the extra help. But without any extra help, bad nights of on-call, sickness, pregnancy and vacation all hit the surgical lists and increase surgical wait time. Because anaesthesia is one of the key stones of a hospital it stands to reason that they need to be well paid and the job made easy enough that they can do it for a life-time. Pulling on-call 1 night in 4 when you're 50 years old is neither enjoyable nor sustainable. But that is the predicament that many anesthetists in smaller communities are facing.

I have not read much in the United States about anaesthesia shortages but I have to wonder, whether the trend toward "lifestyle" specialities and cost control will lead people away from anesthesia. I have little doubt that cost control measures will make the pay less compelling. The call schedule in anaesthesia has never been a selling point for the specialty and they are in a high risk specialty for litigation. It stands to reason, therefore, that New Zealand and Canada are a warning bell for the Unitied States of what is to come.

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