Some skepticism, no uniform policies: 6 ASC leaders on planning for the COVID-19 vaccine

With news about a COVID-19 vaccine changing daily, ASC leaders have been thinking about how they'll handle policies when one becomes available. Here's what six leaders told Becker's ASC Review about their plans.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Kirsten Anderson. Administrator of Parkway Surgery Center (Myrtle Beach, S.C.): We recently were asked to complete a questionnaire by our state agency on whether we would be willing to vaccinate our employees if a vaccine became available through the state. While we answered yes, making a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees would be unlikely.  

We are definitely in a fluid situation with the ever-changing CDC guidelines for healthcare workers [and] COVID statistics for our county and state and nation. If a COVID-19 vaccine were to become widely available for patients and healthcare workers, we may have to adjust some of our center policies that were created due to COVID-19, but we will have to wait and see.

Benita Tapia. Administrator of Beverly Hills (Calif.) Anesthesia Group: I would trust that the vaccine has been safely tested; however, the efficacy of how long it would protect us against COVID-19 — I believe we do not have enough long-term data to support that yet.

We would need to first review the data on safety and efficacy of the vaccine. If we were all comfortable that it was safe and effective, I think we would treat it as we do our flu vaccine and probably make it available to staff at no charge and try to get the majority of staff to take the vaccine, unless they had strong reasons why they should not. Those members of staff that did not get the vaccine would need to wear masks at all times. 

Catherine Retzbach. Administrator of Memorial Ambulatory Surgery Center (Mount Holly, N.J.): I would not trust the initial vaccine due to the rush to have one available. There may need to be changes made to the vaccine or the virus may mutate, so like the flu shot it may not be 100 percent effective. Also, once people receive the vaccine they may decide to stop following safe distancing and masking.

Our center has been following the guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control. Having a vaccine will not necessarily change anything until we receive guidance from the NJ DOH.

Brock Kreienbrink, MSN, RN. Administrator and Director of nursing at Outpatient Surgery Center of Central Florida (Wildwood): As of right now, we are doing daily temperature checks on everyone in the building, a questionnaire, and we will be receiving COVID-19 rapid tests next week to [start] daily on everyone. We will not require vaccines on employees or staff unless they want it.

Robert Lerma. Administrator at Blue Springs Surgery Center (Orange City, Fla.): I would not trust the COVID-19 vaccine as of 2020. I would like to see a six-month study for trials across the age groups with comorbidities. However, I believe it is a personal decision and if available, each individual should have the freedom of choice with guidance from their primary care provider/doctor to have the injection.

My policy with the support and guidance of our board, would be written to state that the decision for a vaccine should rest with the patient and their doctor. However, if a patient tested positive, as we are an elective ambulatory surgery center for procedures, the case will be rescheduled until the patient tests negative.

Shannon Magro. Healthcare administrator at Physicians Surgery Center of Frederick (Md.): I am confident it will be put through all of the necessary testing and verifications necessary to produce an effective and safe vaccine without all of the red tape that has slowed the process down in the past. I feel somehow that over time, organizations have made the process too difficult while making the vaccine more costly for those who need it.

Once a safe vaccine has been approved, I would like to make it a requirement to keep them as safe as possible. We will continue to distance and wear appropriate [personal protective equipment]. That will not change.

More articles on surgery centers:
How the pandemic changed infection control in ASCs — 6 insights
'The unrecognized heroes in outpatient surgery' — 12 contestants move closer to cash prize
Patient warming for surgical procedures: 5 things to know


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