'All small businesses are doomed': 7 ASC leaders discuss lingering effects of COVID-19

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting ASCs across the country in different ways, with some still seeing impacts more than others. While some ASC leaders report still struggling to keep patients under state regulations, others have found that the pandemic's effects are nearly gone altogether. 

Question: How is your ASC still impacted by the affects of COVID-19? 

Shailesh Patel. Former CEO, Imperial Surgery Center (Houston): I was absolutely devastated by COVID-19 as the Texas governor ruled that we were no longer allowed to do elective surgeries. Our business went down to zero during COVID. We were forced to shut down. 

Michael Powers. Administrator, Children's West Surgery Center (Knoxville, Tenn.): It is not impacting us at all at this time. 

Kim Price, RN. Administrator, Central Kentucky Surgery Center (Danville, Ky.): The impacts of COVID-19 we are feeling the most are one, supply chain issues with capital equipment. And two, staffing issues where a lot of nurses and techs are leaving their full-time jobs to do local travel assignments and make $70 to $90 more per hour than what we are able to pay. 

Sam Romeo, MD. General partner, Tower Health and Wellness Center (Turlock, Calif.): Pediatric cases are down significantly, especially ENT. The prolonged COVID-19 closure of the economy, and especially the California political reality, makes small ASCs nearly unsustainable. Add increased regulations, supply and staff costs and payer power, all small businesses are doomed. 

Daniel Larose. Medical director, Advanced Surgery Center (Omaha, Neb.): The main remaining issue for us is staffing. That issue is improving rapidly. The supply issue is minor at the moment. Very few employees and patients seem to be affected by COVID-19. 

Jarett Landman. Vice president of operations, Spire Orthopedic Partners (Greenwich, Conn.): We were incredibly hopeful that 2022 would be a strong year in our center, given the limited access to care created by the government regulations in 2020 and 2021. Much to our surprise, liberty from these COVID-19 restrictions had its own unforeseen impact on patient volume. 

Many individuals prioritized return to the workforce or taking that two-year delayed vacation over seeking treatment for their orthopedic ailments. So while performance of our center is markedly improved from the height of COVID, there is still collateral damage created by society's post pandemic response." 

John Lewis. CEO, Semmes Murphey (Memphis, Tenn.): As it is with many other ASCs in our region, staffing remains a constant challenge. I do, however, think that we are fortunate that we have been able to retain many of our talented staff members. Now that we know how to deal with COVID, we are experiencing a significant decrease in COVID-related staff absences.  Similarly, our patient volumes have been more predictable as we have seen far fewer COVID-related patient cancellations.

We have continued with many of the processes that we put in place during the height of COVID. We still limit the number of patient family members that patients are allowed to have in our ASC. And we have continued to focus a lot of effort on creating a clean environment. We continue to use our UVC robots (among other things) as we work to create a safe place for our patients.

Supply chain disruptions continue to be a challenge as many medications and other disposables are either backordered or completely discontinued. This has forced us to search beyond our established vendors to purchase some items, and the prices for those items are well above prices we were paying prior to COVID.

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