The COVID-19 pandemic shook the ASC industry, and while some centers have fully recovered, others are still struggling to return to pre-pandemic stability.
Six ASC leaders spoke with Becker's about whether their centers have recovered from the pandemic.
Question: Has your center recovered from COVID-19?
Note: These answers were edited lightly for clarity and brevity.
Matthew Ewasko. Administrator of Physicians Alliance Surgery Center (Cape Girardeau, Mo.): Many of our service lines have recovered from a case volume standpoint, but we still have a few in which volume is below historical volume. In speaking with our surgeons, I continue to hear that patients are hesitant to come to a medical facility for an elective procedure while the pandemic is still a part of our daily lives. At the same time, others have just accepted this as something that we will have to live with for a while, and gone about their regular daily routines.
Financially, we are still trying to adjust to the ever-increasing cost of supplies for our facility. At the beginning of the pandemic, [personal protective equipment] costs increased due to the limited supply caused by rapid increased demand. Now we continue to see supply costs increase, but it is seen on all items due to lower inventories and increased backorder delays. I think we need to start looking at our historical data and truly ask ourselves if we will return to what we once considered normal, or if we need to develop a new normal moving forward.
Tracy Helmer, RN. Administrator of Seven Hills ASC (Henderson, Nev.): Our center has seen a shift in certain specialties, but not all specialties have recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Cases that seem less-risky for patients — and this is often the patient’s own perspective, due to lower exposure risk to COVID-19 — have been very high. Patients' perceptions about exposure risk are definitely driving their choice about where they get their procedures done.
Mark Spina. Director of Operations at Endoscopy Center of Connecticut (Hamden): Our center has nearly fully recovered from COVID-19. Our case volume dropped in 2020 due to a nearly two-month slowdown in cases in the spring when only urgent cases were being performed. Our case volume in 2021 has returned to 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
Milica Dobricic. Billing Team Leader of American Surgical Centers (West Bloomfield, Mich.): We were fortunate in that with help from the government our facility did not have an issue after we were allowed to start performing elective surgeries at our ASC.
Sean Barnard. Administrator of Idaho SurgiCenter (Pocatello): Yes, we're very very busy. If anything, we're still somewhat understaffed.
Valerie Thiele, RN. Administrator of Madison Street Surgery Center (Denver): I would say there are impacts from COVID-19 that still remain. We are an ophthalmology-specific ASC, and the elderly population may be still hesitant to start up routine care. Also, we are screening all patients for COVID-19 symptoms for safety and are requiring testing prior to surgery. If patients are presenting with any symptoms, we are postponing and may be losing them to care.