ASCs ready as Texas governor urges hospitals to delay elective surgery

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott has asked hospitals to voluntarily delay elective procedures in an Aug. 9 letter to the Texas Hospital Association, citing concern about a shortage of hospital capacity as COVID-19 surges throughout the state. 

He called on hospitals to voluntarily postpone procedures for which delay would not lead to a "loss of life or a deterioration in the patient’s condition." 

Some ASC administrators feel delaying elective surgery is not an adequate defense against the spread.

"I would have hoped that he would also recognize that the second-best defense is a mandatory masking policy," said Alfonso del Granado, administrator of Covenant High Plains Surgery Center in Lubbock, Texas. "Asking hospitals to delay elective procedures is like asking good people to conserve water instead of stopping arsonists from setting more wildfires."

Mr. del Granado also cited concern with the number of patients who delayed necessary treatment in 2020 and ended up requiring more invasive, riskier procedures. 

ASCs are preparing to support hospitals as they focus on caring for COVID-19 patients. As was the case last year, ASCs may need to divert resources to hospitals or take on extra elective procedures.

"We are gearing up as we did before when our hospitals postponed elective surgeries," said Debbie Smith, administrator of Heart of Texas Surgery Center in Woodway. "We have onboarded at least one physician due to the announcement to perform some podiatry cases here at the center."

Heart of Texas Surgery Center is a part of CMS' 'Hospital Without Walls' program, Ms. Smith said, so nearby hospitals can use the center's cardiology catherization lab for procedures that are considered elective.

Adam Bruggeman, MD, spine surgeon at Texas Spine Care Center in San Antonio, said he does not expect the announcement to impact ASCs but anticipates that some specialty hospitals will absorb non-COVID-19 patients.

"The inpatient hospitals I work at are specialty hospitals and will continue to take care of surgical patients as they have in the past," he told Becker's. "They will work with the regional emergency response teams to try to take non-COVID-19 patients into their facility, such as low energy trauma, to relieve any pressure and open beds at hospitals that have the equipment and personnel to appropriately manage COVID-19 patients."

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