Providers such as Cancer Treatment Centers of America say they're able to lessen the burden during the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid concerns that hospitals on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic will be overwhelmed, specialty hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and other health care settings may be enlisted to take on patients who aren't infected.
Dr. Pat Basu, president and CEO of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America, says his facilities are ready to accept patients.
"I'm telling hospitals 'You've got patients we can take on, I'll get your doctors temporarily credentialed," so acute-care hospitals can focus on taking care of COVID-19 cases, Basu said. Beyond accepting cancer patients, the company can find ways to help with other surgery needs and ICU overflow, he said.
In just the Chicago area, CTCA has 73 inpatient beds, 24 ICU beds, five operating rooms and six ventilators, a spokeswoman said in an email.
Specialty hospitals can care for patients who are not infected with coronavirus but still need care, especially those whose conditions are not emergencies but should not wait for treatment, Basu said.
"This can prevent the 'double hump in the curve' where, if you put off sick patients' surgeries or cancer treatments, when we get out of the COVID-19 curve, we'll have sicker patients to take care of, and possibly (acute care hospitals') health care workers still too sick to care for them," he said.
While there's been no official call for ambulatory surgery centers to provide specific assistance, a statement from the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association said ASCs would respond in any manner needed, as long as patient safety is assured.
"Ambulatory surgery centers need to be prepared for the possibility that the pandemic may proceed to a point that strains the system such that hospitals will need to shift necessary surgeries to ASCs and/or ASCs and their resources will be required to serve the communities and the health care system in a different capacity," the group said in a statement. "Additional guidance from regulatory agencies would govern those situations."
As of March 16, 73% percent of the 2,578 intensive care unit beds in hospitals across Illinois were occupied.
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab said the rehabilitation center is already helping to free up beds at acute-care hospitals.
"We are prepared to take on a significant role to serve patients and support the medical community. Currently, we are focused on helping to free up capacity for acute care hospitals by accepting patients with rehabilitation needs who require hospitalization, but do not require intensive or critical care," the statement said. "As this situation evolves, we are prepared to diversify our patient population, accepting patients regardless of their need for rehabilitation. Taking such action will enable local hospitals to gain needed bandwidth to care for those with critical conditions, such as serious cases of COVID-19."
The CDC has recommended that some inpatient surgeries be shifted to outpatient settings, and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has recommended discontinuing elective procedures.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's Chicago Business.