As COVID-19 began spreading across New Jersey in March, the New Jersey Department of Health asked the New Jersey Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers (NJAASC) if we would serve as the point of contact between the agency and ASCs. NJAASC advised the department that it would take on this responsibility for communicating with all of the state’s ASCs, not just its members.
In those first few months, we answered hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from ASCs around the state with questions ranging from testing requirements, equipment and PPE inventory, to when ASCs would finally be able to open and maintain compliance with the governor’s executive orders. Throughout the public health emergency, we have served as a constant information resource about what the state was requiring of all ASCs.
In addition, just days after the lockdown we mobilized immediately to answer the department’s request for information regarding what PPE supplies were stockpiled at New Jersey’s ASCs and in what quantity, in the event our hospitals faced a shortage. These were unprecedented times, and New Jersey’s ASCs answered the call.
When the department sought out NJAASC’s assistance in formulating (as well as revising) Executive Order 109 about elective surgery, NJAASC worked closely with the Department to open ASCs for elective procedures. In another example, NJAASC collected testing data from ASCs which it presented to the department, resulting in testing criteria being revised.
And now, as New Jerseyans are open to returning to physician offices and other facilities for medical care once again, it is important to recognize the role of ASCs in the health care delivery system. The ASC industry in New Jersey is not only among the most regulated in the nation, but thrives within perhaps the nation’s most competitive health care marketplace, where patient expectations and the caliber of medical care are both extremely high.
The roughly 320 ASCs in New Jersey play a critical role in the delivery of health care, providing expert, accessible, safe and often more affordable care to patients seeking same-day procedures, including diagnostic and preventative procedures, as well as outpatient surgery. Advances in medical technology are enabling physicians to perform an increasing number of less-invasive procedures in less-intensive medical settings, including upper GI endoscopies, colonoscopies, epidurals and spine injections, and cataract and carpal tunnel surgery, to name just a few
New Jersey’s ASCs provide a safe environment for patients because they are selective about the kinds of procedures that can be performed at ASCs and because they adhere to the same stringent standards as other health care settings under the oversight of the Department and other regulatory and accrediting bodies. In addition, ASCs typically don’t admit patients that have a variety of infections and illnesses that may present a risk to other patients, and of course, now with COVID, they are taking purposeful and preventative steps to protect our patients and staff alike.
So let’s continue to support our “Health care Heroes” and have confidence as we resume our focus on preventive care, address more pressing health care needs, and return to New Jersey’s ASCs. Let’s support New Jersey’s ASCs so that they can continue to support our communities.
Jeff Shanton is president of the New Jersey Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers a nonprofit organization which founded in 1992 by owners of ambulatory surgery centers.