Local News

Patients Losing Sleep Over Anesthesiologist Shortage

Posted December 13, 2000

— A contract dispute at a Cumberland County hospital is testing the patience of some patients. Several elective surgeries have been postponed because Cape Fear Valley Medical Center does not have enough anesthesiologists.

While some patients at the hospital ready for their surgeries, but the hospital is not.

Cape Fear Valley says the reason that four of its operating rooms are empty is because of money. That does not sit well with Cathy Preston, whose husband's open-heart surgery was put on hold.

"We were told he was a walking time bomb," she says. It may sound urgent, but it is not considered an emergency. Preston's quadruple-bypass was put off until Thursday, because there were not any anesthesiologists.

Cape Fear Valley spokesman Clinton Weaver says the hospital has been trying to renegotiate a contract with Cumberland Anesthesia Associates for over a year.

He says they wanted $1 million more than a consultant-recommended price. Without a contract, the group started working at the hospital on a limited basis last week.

"We are having to prioritize and take care of emergencies first," Weaver says. "We are certainly going to make sure any emergency is handled, and after that, we sort out and triage the other cases and what can wait and what can't wait."

Because elective surgeries are now only offered three days a week instead of seven, surgeons have been told to delay any operations possible.

Cathy Preston does not understand that policy.

"I just think it's ridiculous. I think these people must have taken an oath of some kind, too. I think the patient should come first," she says.

While Cape Fear continues to try to negotiate a contract, they are also working with a physician recruiter to try and get temporary staff there by January.

That could be tough, because like registered nurses, there is a huge demand for anesthesiologists.


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