I am a physician anesthesiologist who has worked for nearly 20 years in both university and community hospital settings here in New Mexico and in other states. In each of my practices, I have had the honor of working alongside other physician anesthesiologists, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and anesthesiologist assistants (AAs) in a care team model to provide the highest levels of patient care in the field of anesthesiology.
During this recent legislative session, SB35, a bill detailing the continued practice of anesthesiologist assistants in New Mexico, was passed. The bill passed both the New Mexico House and Senate with an enormous margin of bipartisan support. For those who are unfamiliar, anesthesiologist assistants are highly trained clinical professionals who work in a supervised care team model with physician anesthesiologists to provide a range of anesthesia services. They have been practicing safe anesthesia care in many states across the country since the 1960s. This is a similar role to physician assistants (PAs) in other medical specialties. AAs have been practicing in the state of New Mexico for more than two decades at University of New Mexico. Based on their excellent care and safety record working at the state’s only level-one trauma center, and taking care of some the most complex patients, a NM bill was passed eight years ago to allow for the expansion of AA practice into all NM Class A counties. This expansion was successful and has helped to address NM hospitals critical staffing needs and improved access to safe anesthesia services for New Mexicans. AAs have proven to be indispensable parts of the professional work-force, providing much-needed anesthesia services in our state.
This bill, which is now awaiting signature by the governor, simply eliminates a “sunset clause” on the practice of AAs which would otherwise mean that after July of 2025 they would no longer be allowed to practice outside of UNM. This would be devastating to the hospitals that are currently relying on them. NM is in a health care crisis and it continues to be a challenge to attract and retain health care providers. HB35 will allow NM continued access to all qualified anesthesia providers. I strongly encourage Governor Lujan Grisham to sign the bill.
Kathleen MacDonald, MD