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Over 1,400 doctors sign petition against Gov. Ducey’s physician opt-out executive order

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TUCSON - Would you agree to a surgery without a physician anesthesiologist?

Right now in Arizona, you may not have a choice, that's because in March Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order opt-out, allowing surgeries to happen without them.

Since March 23, the day the executive order was signed, over 1,400 doctors have signed a petition asking Ducey to make this opt-out temporary during the COVID-19 crisis.

The opt-out allows nurse anesthetists to perform anesthesiology procedures without supervision, which concerns physician anesthesiologists who have 12,000 to 16,000 hours of experience compared to 2,500 from a nurse anesthetist.

Dr. Heidi Tavel is a Physician Anesthesiologist and member of Physicians for Patient Protection.

"Patients in Arizona deserve to have a physician involved in their anesthetic care," said Travel. "So when or if those life or death moments arise in their surgery a physician is involved and able to potentially save their life."

This decision by the governor was made without consulting the medical community, according to Tavel, and before the opt-out Arizona state law required that a physician or surgeon must be present when a nurse is administering anesthetics.

"As a physician anesthesiologist, I cannot see any benefit to the opt-out for patients in Arizona, it only brings up patient safety concerns," said Tavel.

Other states have opted out of physician supervision on a temporary basis, but Arizona is the first state since 2012 to make it permanent and doctors say patients are losing the expertise of a more qualified doctor with this opt-out in place.

"As physicians, we were told about the opt-out through a press release after it happened," said Travel. "So there was no involvement from the physicians as far as the potential benefits or more importantly to us the potential concerns."

Over 600 physicians and 500 citizens have written letters to the governor in an attempt to have him reconsider making the opt-out temporary.

Travel says they'll continue to reach out until they speak with him.

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Mark Mingura

Mark Mingura joined KVOA as a Multi Media Journalist in October 2019. Originally from the valley and with ties to Tucson, Mark is excited to get back to his home state and tell the stories of the Old Pueblo.

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