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Double Booked Surgeons Force Patients to Wait Under Anesthesia

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Over a year ago, I wrote a blog about a practice known as simultaneous surgeries, in which a surgeon operates on more than one patient at a time.  Patients, who usually have no idea their surgeon is operating on another patient at the same time, are made to wait under anesthesia while their doctor attends to someone else.  Although Medicare generally allows doctors to bill for two surgeries at the same time, the doctor must be present for all critical parts of the procedure.

According to a lawsuit recently filed against Massachusetts General Hospital, the practice of double booking surgeries has resulted in patients waiting under anesthesia longer than medically necessary, and even longer than is considered safe.  The lawsuit also alleges Medicare fraud, in which surgeons billed for procedures even though they were not in the operating room during the “critical” portions of the procedure.

Prolonged anesthesia is thought to have potentially serious side effects.  A patient under general anesthesia is completely dependent on medical staff for breathing and other life support.  Last year, the American College of Surgeons issued new guidelines that call for greater patient education and closer oversight of the practice, though they still generally allow simultaneous surgeries.

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