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Friday, January 26, 2001

Fired doctor sues
Kaiser over anesthesia
double standard

By Harold Morse

A physician fired by Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center for insisting on being physically present to supervise anesthesia services filed suit against Kaiser yesterday claiming wrongful termination.

Dr. Stacie Wong, a board-certified anesthesiologist, contends her contract with Kaiser required her to follow the guidelines of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, which requires an anesthesiologist to be physically present while supervising nurses who administer anesthesia.

The suit filed yesterday contends Kaiser has two standards of care for anesthesia services. If a patient has an operation on weekdays before 3 p.m., the anesthesiologist is physically present at the Kaiser Moanalua facility to supervise the nurses; if a patient has an operation after 3 p.m. or on weekends, the anesthesiologist is often not there but on call, the suit says.

Under Kaiser procedures, the physician responsible for supervising the anesthesia process is the surgeon, usually untrained in anesthesia, the suit adds.

"Other private hospitals on Oahu and across the United States require the supervising anesthesiologist to be physically present," said Thomas Grande, Wong's attorney. "We hope that Kaiser adopts this common-sense practice and that it gives all of its patients -- regardless of when the operation takes place -- the same quality of health care."

Grande said doctors are not always involved in anesthesia services. "In fact, the services in some instances are being performed by nurses not supervised by on-site anesthesiologists," he said.

Another factor in Wong's firing was a letter she wrote to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Care Finance Administration, the suit says.

The letter objected to a proposed rule change that would allow nurses to administer anesthesia independently and without supervision nationwide.

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