During the month of August, DHEC would like to recognize the 68 Ambulatory Surgery Centers across the state for National Ambulatory Surgery Center Month. As COVID-19 has introduced new challenges to our healthcare system and patients, these facilities and their staff have shown great flexibility and commitment to providing solutions.
The agency’s Healthcare Quality provides state and federal oversight of surgery centers. Ambulatory surgery centers must be licensed and can also be certified.
Ambulatory surgery, also known as outpatient surgery, does not require an overnight hospital stay. Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs), sometimes referred to as Ambulatory Surgical Facilities, specialize in this type of care and keep hospitals uncrowded and available for more invasive procedures and longer recovery times.
ASCs also provide flexibility and a solution to scheduling issues and long wait times for what are considered common surgeries. Procedures occurring in these facilities cost significantly less when compared to hospitals, which saves the patient, insurance companies, and employers money.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, three of South Carolina’s ASCs have converted into hospitals, while others have closed because of the restrictions on elective surgeries. These conversions help hospital capacity, assist with backlogs of procedures, and expand resources.
An ASC must meet the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Conditions of Participation when converting to a hospital and, while operating as a hospital, it will temporarily no longer operate as an ASC. DHEC is proud of South Carolina’s ASCs and all they have done in order to comply with federal and state standards and waivers.
The three ASCs that have converted to hospitals during the COVID pandemic are the Surgery Center at Edgewater in Fort Mill, Charleston ENT & Allergy, and Center for Colon & Digestive Diseases in Aiken.
“ASCs provide high quality surgical care that is safe and cost-effective,” said Amanda Atkinson, Administrator of the Surgery Center at Edgewater. “They have a reduced risk of infection and patients have the convenience of receiving care in a smaller and more intimate setting.”
Responding to COVID-19 at present, the facility is required to test all patients prior to their surgical procedure, adding extra steps to their pre-operation process. Additional staff were brought in to assist with the testing, but supply costs have risen for the facility.
Many local hospitals have suspended elective surgeries to focus on providing care to COVID-19 cases, creating a backlog of procedures and patients on standby. By converting to a hospital, the ASC has been able to work on the backlog of surgeries waiting to be performed, improving the patient’s quality of life, and in many cases allowing them to return to work or normal daily activities.
In addition to the extra duties and safety precautions within the facility, staff have also been dedicating time to testing the public.
“Staff who are affiliated with MUSC have been staffing COVID 19 testing sites since the beginning,” Atkinson said. “Many of our staff continue doing so to ensure that we are doing our part to help with this pandemic. They have all been willing to work jobs outside their normal work duties as nurses and surgical technicians to help the greater good. These healthcare professionals have selflessly and courageously continued to provide excellent care to our patients and our community.”
DHEC thanks all of our ASCs for their continued commitment to Promoting Teamwork and Service and Accessibility. Later this month, we will publish a second part in this Dashboard series to highlight our work with another ASC and how our staff is helping to protect patient care during this time.