Are COVID-19 surges affecting ASC growth plans?

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Seven ASC leaders spoke with Becker's on whether COVID-19 is affecting their long-term growth plans. 

Here are their answers:

Editor's note: These answers were edited lightly for brevity and clarity. 

Heather Self, RN. Administrative Director of Embassy Surgery Center (Lancaster, Calif.): Our plans for growth have not been disrupted completely. I think our team is doing a great job at taking things slow and being mindful of long-term impacts our decisions will make. However, we know that in order to meet the needs of the community, we have to continue to evolve and grow. We are learning to function alongside COVID-19. This has made our team of staff and surgeons more adaptable, strengthened our teamwork and resiliency and reminded us that healthcare will change at a moment's notice. 

Andy Wilkinson. Director of ASC Strategy and Business Operations for Shields Health Care Group (Quincy, Mass.): COVID-19 has caused a great deal of disruption across the healthcare system and has delayed a number of our growth plans. While our volumes have returned to pre-pandemic levels, there’s still a feeling among our surgeon partners that the reduction in extracurricular sports, in both the school-aged and adult populations, has impacted potential growth in our sports medicine volume. That said, we strongly feel that ASCs provide a welcoming environment for patients, and because of our commitment to partnering with community providers, our patients have the opportunity to access the care they need close to home and without long commutes to appointments. Because of this, we anticipate that we will see a positive impact on the growth of our ASCs over the next few years. 

David Silvernale. CFO of MNGI Digestive Health (Minneapolis): The deferment of elective procedures such as screening colonoscopy that occurred during COVID-19 has created a backlog of procedures that could take years to recover from. This, combined with the lowering of the CRC screening age and attention to site-of-service to lower the total cost of care, has created confidence for the organization to continue to grow through additional physicians and the ASC space for them to work. In addition, as we design new facilities, we are paying strong attention to the learnings of infection control, air quality and patient flow that will become part of the new normal post-COVID-19.

Alfonso del Granado. Administrator of Covenant High Plains Surgery Center (Lubbock, Texas): The recent COVID-19 surges have not had an immediate disruptive effect yet, but we do have contingency plans in place if the local situation continues to worsen. Our health system relationship means that we continue to be positioned to take spillover cases if the hospitals have to restrict elective procedures, and we have equipment and experienced staff to perform higher-acuity cases if needed. That said, though no immediate effect has been felt, we do have protocols for prioritizing cases if we do need to draw down, and our growth plans have fail-safes built in to allow us to delay implementation if needed.

Michael Powers. Administrator of Children's West Surgery Center (Knoxville, Tenn.): If recent means the last six months, then no, it has not impacted our current volumes, so therefore we do not expect it will negatively impact our growth plans.  

Brock Kreienbrink, MSN, RN. Administrator and Director of Nursing for the Outpatient Surgery Center of Central Florida (Wildwood): COVID-19 has disrupted our growth in ways of staffing. Staffing costs are through the roof. We are a cardiac-only facility, and our staff are highly specialized. COVID-19 has created travel opportunities for these employees at unheard-of prices. The combination of staff leaving our market at significant levels and the increase of ASCs/catheterization labs/hospitals in our market is draining the staffing pool — which is causing major inflation in the staffing cost to compete for these employees.  

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