ASCs are strained under COVID-19 testing rules, says counsel to NJAASC: 3 insights

Reopening guidelines for New Jersey surgical centers may be well-intentioned, but they're impractical, according to John Fanburg, a managing member and chair of Brach Eichler's healthcare law practice.

Mr. Fanburg serves as counsel to the New Jersey Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers, as well as to seven ASCs in the state. He is concerned that state reopening requirements are hurting these facilities, he told Becker's ASC Review.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: What logistical challenges are created by the ASC requirements for reopening?

John Fanburg: The logistical challenges include the requirement of having each patient getting tested before the procedure and then self-quarantining between the date of the test and the procedure itself. Compounding this is that the test results must be received by the ASC in a timely manner (within 96 hours of the procedure). If the test is not received [in a] timely [manner] or if the patient did not self-quarantine, the procedure must be rescheduled. If this is an endoscopy procedure, the patient will need to prep again, and due to the cancellation, the ASC will have unnecessary gaps in its schedule, causing further economic strain.

Q: How have surgery centers been faring since these requirements took effect?

JF: The ASCs are not faring well. The costs required to ensure a safe environment for the patients and staff have been staggering. Due to the new requirements, patient volume is down.

Q: What would be reasonable alternatives to the current requirements?

JF: A coherent conversation must be had to determine whether COVID-19 testing pre-procedure is an appropriate safeguard when extensive personal protective equipment is being utilized. Pre-treatment testing is not being required in other healthcare settings, such as dentistry (where droplets are rampant) and other non-ASC settings. The question, then, is why is it required in an ASC setting?

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