In these dark days of closed facilities and furloughed/terminated staff, it is easy to get caught up in how unfair, unforeseen, and terribly depressing this situation has been for ambulatory surgery centers and the world.  

True - none of this was our fault. We did everything right. But sometimes bad things happen to good people. What we all need to do now is rally and start seriously planning for the boom that is just around the corner. That’s not wishful thinking. That’s REALITY.

Within weeks, your facility WILL re-open and you will be busy. REALLY busy. Why do I say that? It’s simple math, and there are 4 big sources of surgical volume heading your way after COVID-19.

  1. CANCELLED CASES - Your ambulatory surgery center (ASC) had a lot of cases scheduled that were cancelled. Those patients haven’t disappeared. They still want their surgery, and as soon as you are open again, they will be calling.
  2. BOOKED CASES – This will vary by facility, but most ASCs probably had some cases already booked for the time when you will re-open. Those patients who are booked in May (my guess), are still expecting to have their surgical date/time honored.
  3. NEW CASES – During this shutdown, people didn’t stop getting sick, getting injured, or succumbing to the “inexorable ravages of gravity” (as one plastic surgeon I used to work with would use as his diagnosis for every augmentation/lift he ever did!) All of those cases need to get done.
  4. HOSPITAL CASES – The COVID-19 crisis has created a “wakeup call” for America. First, we are not going to be dependent on foreign countries to be the primary source of critical medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Second, hospitals need to focus on delivering acute care. Elective surgical cases belong in ambulatory surgery centers. You will see a huge, permanent shift in cases to your facility.

So what can you do right now to prepare? It’s easy: you need 2 main things to be up and running again: staff and “stuff.” Work on your people first. Make a spreadsheet or a written log. Have the contact info, the contact date, and what that staff person’s response is on whether they plan to come back. In your planning, assume schools will not be open again until next fall. Has each staff person with children planned ahead for childcare?

After you’ve got your staff situation figured out and contingent rehiring/new hiring planned for, concentrate on the “stuff”-- all of your materials needed to deliver care. For example, you have likely cancelled your linen deliveries. What lead time do you need to get re-stocked? In your plannings, assume everyone will be re-opening at the same time and the supply chain that you depend on will be slammed. PLAN AHEAD and ORDER AHEAD for anything that is not going to quickly out-date at your ASC.

As the Lululemon bag says, “it’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how quickly you get up”... I have 4 daughters and those bags are as close as I get to anything philosophical.

Good luck! We will all get through this together.


About the Author: Stephen Punzak, MD is a practicing Anesthesiologist as well as the CEO of One Medical Passport. He founded One Medical Passport because he has always had a vision of how healthcare could run more efficiently using technology.  He frequently writes on medical topics, workflow efficient measures and ASC industry trends.