Elective surgery restrictions 'gutted' ASCs, spurred closures — 3 key thoughts from an industry leader

The 180-member New Jersey Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers is maintaining open communication with the state's health department in an effort to help ASCs remain fully operational as COVID-19 cases trend in the wrong direction, according to ROI-NJ.com.

NJAASC President Jeff Shanton told the outlet about the devastation caused by earlier restrictions on non-emergency surgery and explained how he brought the issue to elected officials' attention.

Three key takeaways from Mr. Shanton:

1. On restrictions limiting ASCs to emergency cases: "A lot of ASCs chose to not even stay open. And those that did stay open were doing a couple cases a week or a dozen a month. That's a drop in the bucket [compared] to before. At my old center, we were doing between 800 and 1,000 cases a month. Now, there were months that we did four or five cases. It really gutted the industry.

"... I know about a half-dozen [ASCs] that have closed. Now, there probably are more, but I know of a half-dozen that have shut down."

2. On educating elected officials about industry issues: "I testified before a bipartisan Senate committee and said, 'You are ripping the guts out of the industry. There are centers that won't be able to come back because [of] all the hoops you have to jump through now.' We can't run the same number of cases through our ORs that we did before because of the restrictions and the regulations. … You have to, at some point, take all that into consideration and weigh it along with what the governor is always talking about, being responsible. We happen to believe that we are responsible and we're very safe."

3. On the possibility of more restrictions due to worsening COVID-19 numbers: "We feel very confident that there should not be a shutdown of electives. We feel we have safety standards in place and that no one is coming into a surgical center that's infected. … We've put together a plan that says, 'This is how we're going to move forward,' and we've had our government affairs people getting the word out to the department of health, the governor's office and the legislature.

"There is a political side to this. But, right now, I'm pretty sure they're all on our side. They don't want to shut us down. They certainly realize that the economy has to go on and you just can't shut things down."

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