'2 steps forward and 3 steps back': Georgia endoscopy center's struggle to survive

Staff shortages, exacerbated by COVID-19 spikes and vaccination mandates, have some endoscopy centers struggling to stay afloat. 

Bobbi Freeman, gastroenterology endoscopy and GI lab manager of Harbin Clinic Endoscopy Center in Rome, Ga., spoke with Becker's ASC Review recently about the challenges her center is facing. 

Editor's note: This interview was edited lightly for clarity and brevity. 

Question: What are you most worried about in 2022? 

Bobbi Freeman: Right now, I am terribly concerned about staffing and sustainability of my practice. This new variant is rampant. I currently have five employees out that are positive and three with close-contact exposures, all within the last 72 hours. Trying to keep my two ASCs and a physician office practice running business-as-usual amid all of this chaos is the biggest challenge I have ever faced. It is very difficult to keep a positive attitude and feel like I am setting a good example for my staff when I feel like I am drowning every single day. I think the mental health of our providers, administrators, managers, leaders, etc., is a big concern. 

We are going into year three of this pandemic, and it seems we are two steps forward and three steps back every step of the way. I am still short-staffed from my organization's COVID-19 vaccination mandate, so adding all these COVID-19-positive employee absences into the mix is the icing on this crap cake we have been eating for the last two years.

I am trying to be as real as possible. Supplies are also a big concern. We are either having issues getting supplies, or the supplies we are able to get cost two to three times more than they did two years ago. My supply cost has increased by at least 30 percent, while my reimbursement hasn’t. My overtime is through the roof because the staff I do have are working extra just to get us through the patient load each day. All the clerical and administrative responsibilities are taking a back row seat right now and are getting extremely behind. 

I have been working 12-, 13-hour days Monday through Friday since March of 2020, plus coming in on the weekends, and still can’t stay on top of the workload. #burnedout

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