Shortage of Anesthesiologists Creates Logjam at Providence Hospitals

The shortage started Nov. 22, when Providence switched contractors.

Providence Portland. (Wesley Lapointe)

Patients looking to get knee operations, hernia repair or any other non-emergency surgery at Providence hospitals are in for a monthlong wait because the nonprofit system doesn’t have enough anesthesiologists.

Providence Portland on the eastside and Providence St. Vincent in the West Hills are taking only emergency, urgent and pregnancy-related cases through the end of the year, a Providence spokeswoman confirmed. The shortage started Nov. 22, when Providence dumped its local contractor, Oregon Anesthesiology Group, and hired Sound Physicians of Tacoma, Wash.

“Unfortunately, the new group will not have enough credentialed anesthesia providers to fully cover the ORs at those facilities when the contract begins,” Providence managers told staff in an email Nov. 14. “We thank you for your understanding and support as we move through this difficult time.”

Beyond patients, the clumsy switchover hurts surgeons, who can’t operate, and the nurses who assist them. “Surgeons are pissed,” says one source who works at St. Vincent.

Meantime, the Providence spokeswoman said, nurses can do special projects, work temporarily in other departments, use vacation time, or take unpaid time off.

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