Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough speaks during a Senate Veterans' Affairs hearing on the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2024 and 2025 advance appropriations requests for the Department of Veterans Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Credit: Andrew Harnik / AP

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As a resident physician training in anesthesiology, I am writing to bring attention to the bipartisan Protect Lifesaving Anesthesia Care for Veterans Act ( S. 2070/H.R. 3347). The bill in the U.S. Congress aims to ensure that Veterans have access to high quality anesthesia care when using U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. I believe veterans in Maine have earned and deserve no less than the standard of care as our state’s civilians.

The VA is  proposing to supersede our state law and impose a lower standard of care for veterans. Under the VA’s proposal, the existing physician member of the anesthesia team would be eliminated and VA would move to a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) only model. This proposal removes important physician oversight of anesthesia care, a change that is inconsistent with the accepted model employed at the nation’s top hospitals.

Veterans treated at VA hospitals tend to be older and with more health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Many have been exposed to dangerous toxins such as agent orange and toxins released from burn pits. These conditions increase the risk of serious complications during surgery. When the patient is more medically complex, the higher level of training and experience of an anesthesiologist is imperative to manage problems associated with anesthesia.

I strongly urge readers and our elected leaders to support this legislation.

Andrew Egan