ASC emergencies: These centers weren't expecting disaster, but overcame it with flying colors

Here are three ambulatory surgery centers that effectively and efficiently handled emergency situations.

If you would like to recommend another surgery center for this list, contact Anuja Vaidya at

Charlotte (N.C.) Surgery Center. The surgery center, affiliated with Surgical Care Affiliates, had to close for two days unexpectedly early in 2014 because of the harsh winter. The center reopened after the closure with 44 surgeries scheduled. An online pre-admission solution that the facility had deployed, called One Medical Passport, enabled nurses to keep operations running smoothly despite the closure. Nurses were able to securely access and complete preoperative histories of patients, and thus, all surgeries were performed without a delay when the center reopened.

Opened in 1984, the surgery center is accredited by the Accreditation Association of Ambulatory Health Care. It includes seven operating rooms and a procedure room. The center is affiliated with Surgical Care Affiliates and offers surgical services in numerous specialties, including gynecology, ophthalmology, orthopedic surgery, pain management, urology and plastic surgery.

Puget Sound Orthopaedics' Lakewood (Wash.) Surgery Center, a division of Proliance Surgeons. The surgery center experienced a power outage around three years ago, while a surgery was being performed in the operating room.

"Fortunately, when the power went out, our generator immediately kicked on and critical functions remained in operation," says April Gibson, administrator of the center. "We had one surgeon in the OR at the time and once we determined there were no other complicating circumstances, that is, a fire or other reason to immediately evacuate the building, the surgeon and anesthesiologist determined they could safely continue with the procedure. The surgery was completed without further incident and the patient was taken to recovery."

The 5,500 square-foot surgery center includes two operating rooms. Approximately 15,000 surgeries have been performed at the surgery center since it opened. It has earned the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations' Gold Seal of Approval. The center includes nine board-certified orthopedic surgeons, who provide numerous services, such as joint replacements, spine surgeries and sports medicine services.

Willamette Surgery Center (Salem, Ore.). The surgery center experienced an emergency situation during the center's first Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations survey, according to Evalyn Cole, the administrator of the center when the incident occurred. Ms. Cole currently serves as administrator of Spine Surgery Center of Eugene (Ore.) and CEO for KeiperSpine.

"This happened a few years ago," she says. "We had just started the meeting in the conference room on the second floor when the fire alarm went off.  I thought it was a JCAHO test. There was an electrical fire in the sterilizer."

The surgery center had two patients who were already under anesthesia in the operating room where their procedures were just beginning. After the alarm went off, someone at the center called 911 and was advised to evacuate the building.

"True to good old Oregon weather, it was pouring rain outside," says Ms. Cole. "We quickly grabbed warm blankets from the warmers and wrapped all patients in warm blankets.  The staff grabbed umbrellas and wheeled the patients — wrapped in blankets — across the parking lot into a clinic next door."

According to Ms. Cole, most people involved remained calm and the situation was resolved quickly. The surgeons spoke to the patients' families to reassure them that their loved ones were safe. The patients who were directly involved received their surgeries without charge.

"It was a valuable learning experience and we had a huge debriefing after the event," Ms. Cole says. "A couple of takeaways, firstly, stay calm. If the administration and other leaders remain calm, everyone else will usually react accordingly. Secondly, use what is at hand. You can do a lot of preparation, drills and planning ahead of time, but in the end, many events are not considered and supplies needed are absent. One has to use what is at hand, repurposing it for the emergency situation."

The surgery center received a commendation from JCAHO for how the event was handled. It is licensed by the state of Oregon and certified by Medicare and Medicaid. Its surgeons offer diagnostic and surgical services in orthopedics, endoscopy, general surgery and podiatry.

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