The month of August is recognized as National Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) Month, and DHEC recognizes the 81 Ambulatory Surgery Centers in the state.
DHEC oversees the federal and state requirements for ASCs. Specifically, the Medical Services and Provider Services Divisions in the Bureau to Healthcare Systems & Services handle oversight of ASCs.
ASCs, also identified as Ambulatory Surgical Facilities, perform what is mostly referred to as outpatient surgery. Outpatient, or ambulatory surgical procedures, do not require an overnight hospital stay for patients.
The ASC model is intended to make hospitals less crowded, to give patients an option that allows schedule flexibility, and to save patients, insurance companies, and employers money because of ASCs and the procedures they perform.
Synergy Spine Center, located in Seneca, offers an example of the different types of procedures ASCs in the state can perform.
“Synergy Spine Center has served the spine care needs of the citizens of our state and surrounding areas since original licensure in 2001,” Dr. Marion McMillan said. “We currently offer a broad range of ambulatory spine care and related outpatient surgery services featuring outpatient full endoscopic spinal surgery for the treatment of herniated disc and spinal stenosis. We have enjoyed a cooperative, productive relationship with the Department in furtherance of our mutual goals of community service and the provision of safe, efficient outpatient surgical care.”
Kristen Juarez, DHEC’s Director of the Providers Services Division, said her division oversees state requirements.
“Our division handles the opening of Ambulatory Surgical Facilities,” she said. “They have to come to us first to get licensed, and that includes obtaining a CON (Certificate of Need), as well as a NOC (Notice of Completion) from Health Facilities Construction in Healthcare Quality.”
“We review their application and make sure they have submitted all of the required documents for licensure, and then we conduct an on-site initial inspection,” Kristen said. “If all the requirements of Regulation 61-91 have been met, we will give the facility permission to operate. From there, they are on an annual schedule for routine inspections in addition to any complaint investigations, follow-up inspections and consultations when needed.”
The Medical Services Division oversees federal requirements on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Of the 81 ASCs in the state, 73 are certified as Medicare and/or Medicaid Ambulatory Surgery Centers.
“We have oversight of the federal CMS requirements of the Ambulatory Surgery Centers,” said LaKeisha Wright, Director of the Medical Services Division. “We go in, and we perform on-site surveys to determine compliance of the federal CMS requirements.”
South Carolina’s State of Emergency declaration for COVID-19, which was lifted in March 2021, allowed ASCs to apply to convert into hospitals to help hospital capacity, assist with backlogs of procedures, and expand resources. ASCs played a vital role in helping to alleviate the burden on the state’s healthcare systems and their staff that continues with the pandemic.
DHEC encourages the public to learn more about ASCs and their importance. DHEC values the residents, staff, and stakeholders who continue to advocate for ASCs and the service they provide to the state of South Carolina.
The state’s Ambulatory Surgical Centers can be found using DHEC’s Find a Facility map.