Counting on resolve & determination — Where 3 centers stand a year later in the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed healthcare, and while surgery centers benefit from being isolated from directly fighting the pandemic, change was prevalent throughout the industry last year and will remain a constant going forward.

Note: Responses were presented alphabetically and edited for style and content.

Question: How has your surgery center changed a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began?

Holli Brown. Administrator of Surgery Center of Pottsville (Pa.): The Surgery Center of Pottsville is thrilled that 2020 is behind us; however, we realize that 2021 has come with its own set of challenges for the ASC industry. With no near end in sight for the global pandemic, we continue to meet the healthcare needs of our patients. Policies and procedures that are pandemic-compliant were developed and continue to be revised as needed, in order to ensure a safe environment for our patients, surgeons and staff.

Because of social distancing and 2021 limitations on ASC surgeries in Pennsylvania, our surgery center volume decreased by 23 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. In order to maintain financial stability, we continue to monitor case costing, research vendors and suppliers, implement new technologies and strive for efficiency in all areas of the center.

Brian Gantwerker, MD. President and CEO of The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles in Santa Monica and Encino, Calif.: When COVID-19 first hit, the surgery center was the only place we could do urgent and semi-elective surgery. That was due to a local ordinance exception made for patients in pain and needing surgery. If not for that help from the city, we and our patients would have been stuck. With each rise in cases, the hospitals and centers slowed down their cases, but this latest spike in cases in late November and early December, the surgery centers never really slowed down and booking cases was difficult, depending on the case. Because of that, we had to revert to using the hospital. The second shutdown seemed a lot better coordinated, and protocols both in the hospital and surgery center had been ironed out and thus were less disrupted.

Despite these late efficiencies, the main issue is getting everything back on track. I feel there will be long-lasting effects of these cases being delayed and patients being more leery in general about being in the healthcare setting.

Corey Roberts. Administrator of Charlotte Surgery Center in Port Charlotte, Fla.: On the one-year anniversary, we take a step back to see where we are. This has been a truly unprecedented experience for all of us, our staff, our patients and our ASC community. Our caseload has for the most part returned to the [pre-pandemic] level for the majority of our providers. Only one of our practices is still lagging in bringing their business fully back. However, that being said, there still feels like a cloud of uncertainty that is prevalent. [They say, "Hope springs eternal"], that the vaccines will have their intended effect on diminishing the spread of this horrific disease, but until we fully see things regress, there is still a worry. What we all desire is to return to some sort of normal, probably never what we as a society have grown up with, but some reality that includes sociality in groups of people without fear of exposure. While we watch and wait, our front-line staff continues to do a heroic job of keeping our patients safe, comfortable and protected. That resolve and determination will certainly bring us back.

More articles on physicians:
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Dr. Michael Ast: 3 ways orthopedics, ASCs will change in the next 3 years

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