Letter to the Editor From Dr. Ronald Harter


Dear Ms. Dyrda and Wallace,

I was disappointed to read Claire Wallace’s article “Health systems 'held hostage' by anesthesiologists.” Workforce challenges are a critical issue affecting all hospitals and health systems. These challenges face every specialty and every level of health care professional, including physicians, mid-level providers, and perioperative nursing and technician staff. Singling out a lone medical specialty as holding anyone “hostage,” ignores the crucial role anesthesiologists play in finding short- and long-term solutions to the widespread staffing challenges.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has been focused on workforce challenges in health care for several years. Anesthesiologists are ideally positioned to lead and partner with other stakeholders to develop alternatives that allow for safe and efficient delivery of care. Over the last two years, we have convened the full range of stakeholders – representatives of hospital administrators, surgeons, mid-level providers and others – to dive deeply into this challenge and to develop consensus solutions. We encourage hospital executives to identify perioperative physician leaders and give them the authority to implement surgical and procedural scheduling practices that align with the hospital’s strategic priorities and utilize the hospital’s precious staffing resources in the safest and most efficient manner—in the OR as well as the Non-Operating Room (NORA) setting. ASA agrees with the assertion in Ms. Wallace’s article that the workforce issue in health care is “unsustainable.” However, portraying anesthesiologists as the problem, rather than important drivers of the solution, is wildly off target. Anesthesiologists want to provide safe and efficient care for all patients in all settings. ASA, and our anesthesiologist members, don’t view this as a “winners and losers” situation. Effective partnerships between anesthesiologists, hospital executives, and other perioperative stakeholders can help to assure that everyone involved—most importantly, our patients—are “winners.”


Ronald L. Harter, MD

President, American Society of Anesthesiologists

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