The Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care is offering tools and support to ambulatory surgery centers opening a temporary hospital in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early April, the CMS announced it would allow ambulatory surgery centers to temporarily operate as hospitals to increase capacity as healthcare experiences a surge of patients who test positive for COVID-19. Considering ambulatory surgery centers have to make significant operational changes to convert to an acute-care setting, the AAAHC, which accredits ambulatory surgery centers, has uploaded webinars and slide shows explaining what the centers should do. The Joint Commission is in the process of offering similar resources to ambulatory surgery centers, a spokeswoman said.
"For some of these guidelines, (ASCs) meet the baseline but there is a little bit more operationally when it comes to running a hospital ASCs don't have," said Tess Poland, senior vice president of accreditation services at AAAHC.
The materials from AAAHC highlight the need for ambulatory surgery centers to comply with Medicare's conditions of participation in order to operate as a hospital. For instance, the centers need to have respiratory services, 24 hours of nursing services and facility-wide antibiotic stewardship programs.
While Medicare's ASC standards overlap with some of Medicare's hospital standards, there are differences. For example, ASCs aren't required to have respiratory services under typical circumstances.
Some of Medicare's conditions of participation have been waived in the midst of the pandemic such as certain reporting requirements.
Poland said ASCs that are converting into hospitals are likely doing so with approval under their state's emergency plan. Hot spot areas may be asking ASCs to treat COVID-19 positive patients or ASCs are acting as a place for emergency services they are already qualified to do, Poland said. An ASC that provides orthopedic surgery may now acquire all the orthopedic cases for nearby hospitals hard hit with coronavirus cases.
While some ASCs are converting into hospitals, others are temporarily closed in compliance with federal and state orders to temporarily stop all non-essential procedures.