'The hospital is broken': Sherman surgery vice chair calls anesthesia shortage a crisis

A top surgeon at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin said Wednesday the hospital's anesthesia provider shortage was a crisis that wouldn't soon be resolved.

Dr. Tom Stanley, vice chair of surgery at the hospital, spoke during the public comment portion of the Elgin City Council meeting Wednesday to address concerns he's heard from the council and the community.

"I think you were told that the operating room would be back to normal by this week or at least by October 1, but that's just not happening," Stanley said. "Now we're being told that it's probably going to take nine to 12 months before we are able to be at the same capacity that we were back in August."

Stanley's comments struck a much less optimistic tone than a statement released by the hospital on Tuesday.

While acknowledging that their anesthesia provider problem is not yet over, Advocate Sherman Hospital officials said that some urgent and elective procedures are now being performed as scheduled.

"Unfortunately, this situation has not been resolved as quickly as we originally anticipated," the hospital said in their statement. "We are working hard to address it and to ensure we meet the needs of our patients and the community."

After breaking off negotiations with previous provider United Anesthesia Associates in late August, hospital officials said at the time that they would be "rescheduling noncritical or elective procedures to other Advocate Aurora Health locations until Sept. 20 at the latest due to a shortage of anesthesia providers."

That deadline has passed, and Stanley said the new staffing company doesn't have any anesthesiologists licensed in the state of Illinois who can come to Sherman.

"We still do not have any permanently employed anesthesiologists at the hospital," Stanley said.

He said Sherman normally does nearly 2,000 cases a month but is on track to do less than 200 in August, a 90% reduction in capacity.

"This capacity crisis is going to continue for a long time," he said. "The hospital is broken."

Stanley said he hoped the council would be able to influence the hospital to dissolve their contract with TeamHealth, their new provider, and go back to the anesthesiologists "that were kicked out."

Mayor David Kaptain said the city has no power to interfere with labor contracts or disputes from private organizations.

"But one thing does concern me and I'm sure it concerns the city council," he said. "One of our primary responsibilities is the safety and health of our residents. If Sherman is not being able to do that, we take that very seriously."

"If people can't get their medical care taken care of here, and they have to leave town to do that or can't get it done at all, that creates a serious problem for us."

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