4 Ways for Surgery Centers to Provide Competitive Benefits

Pam Carter, business controller, and Sandy Berreth, administrator of Brainerd Lakes Surgery Center in Baxter, Minn., discuss strategies they use to keep benefits competitive.

1. Shop around for insurance. Ms. Carter recommends ambulatory surgery centers shop around for health insurance. "On a yearly basis or every couple of years, check the big insurance companies and see what kind of premiums they'll give," she says. Don't assume that your traditional insurance provider is giving you the best rates.

2. Provide benefits that hospitals do not. If your ASC is competing with a local hospital, you may find it difficult to offer competitive benefit packages. "I can't match a hospital on health insurance and short-term and long-term insurance," says Ms. Berreth. "A hospital that employs hundreds or even thousands of people has a much better ability to contract with insurance companies." However, as hospitals look to cut down on non-essential benefits because of financial pressures, your ASC may be able to offer benefits they don't provide. Ms. Berreth says hospitals rarely provide supplemental insurance coverage from companies like Aflac, which allows the employee purchase extra protection in case they're ill or have an accident. "Often, hospitals won't even let that kind of insurance in the door because they don't want to mess with it," she says. "It would be a logistical nightmare."

She says your ASC might also consider more creative benefits, such as pet insurance, to give you the edge over a larger facility.

3. Promote your intrinsic "benefits." The bottom line: You may not be able to compete with a hospital or larger ASC regarding traditional benefits. Instead, Ms. Berreth says you should promote the ASC's other strong points — for example, no weekend shifts, no call and no night shifts. You should also consider offering an annual bonus, a measure many hospitals don't or can't take because of economic pressures. "Just based on the profitability of the surgery center, those are the kind of benefits we're able to give," Ms. Berreth says.

4. Talk as a team about vacation requests. Most employees are attracted to jobs that provide great vacation benefits, but small ASCs can find it difficult to grant vacation requests when the staff is limited. Ms. Berreth and Ms. Carter say their ASC experiences the most vacation requests around the holidays, which is inconveniently also a busy time for elective surgeries. Unlike a hospital, where vacation requests might be handled by an HR department, your ASC has the advantage of being able to sit down as a team and talk about requests together. Instead of rejecting a request out of hand, you can explain to the staff that everybody wants time off and only a certain amount can be granted.

This holiday season, Ms. Carter says, "We actually sat down together as a group and talked about the time we wanted off during December. We took a team approach and talked about how we could make that happen for each one of us." By approaching vacation this way, the ASC was able to give each employee enough vacation time without angering staff or disrupting the center's operations.

Read more advice on operating a successful ASC:

-Surgery Center Survival: 15 Critical Questions to Ensure Effective Adaptation to Industry Changes

-6 Proven Strategies for Physician Recruitment

-7 Points on Developing Surgery Centers in Highly Regulated States

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