‘On the path to success’: Local ambulatory surgery center marks 1-year anniversary
A Steamboat Springs local for 25 years and avid bike rider for more than 40, Butch Boucher previously had only one common surgery in his lifetime, and not even any stitches, before he crashed onto his head and shoulder during a gravel bike ride in July.
“The helmet was a beautiful thing to have,” said Boucher, 61, but the bicyclist needed surgery for a third-degree AC separation in his right shoulder.
He opted to have the procedure in August at Steamboat Surgery Center, which is marking its one-year anniversary of service to the community this month.
The ambulatory, or outpatient, surgery center offering orthopedic, pain management and spine procedures is a partnership of UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute, located upstairs in the same building as the first-floor surgery center in Marketplace Plaza.
According to executives with YVMC and SOSI, the surgery center offers another care option for preplanned, elective surgeries that has been needed in the community for a long time. Following the first surgery Sept. 9, 2020, the center is on a solid “path to success,” said Soniya Fidler, YVMC president.
Wil Schlaff, CEO of Steamboat Surgery Center, said the center is “right on target.”
Schlaff said 18 months is the normal ramp-up time for an ambulatory surgery center, and despite initial pandemic-related construction and certification delays, the center is experiencing patient increases every month. The center’s doctors currently perform up to 16 patient procedures per day on busier days, and the doctors have completed 545 procedures in the center in 2021 through the end of August.
Although patients or doctors can opt to have orthopedic procedures at YVMC, many patients have commented in satisfaction surveys that they found the surgery center convenient and comfortable.
Although still an advocate of local hospitals, Boucher said he found the surgery center and his release to go home by 1 p.m. “more streamlined” and “seamless.”
“It’s not as complex as going to the hospital, but I think it’s every bit as professional,” Boucher said of the surgery center. “It seems more personal, and they specialize in what they do. That’s what I needed. The more assets that we have in town that work for people who live here, the better off we are.”
Schlaff said national studies show the costs of procedures at ambulatory surgery centers can be from 40% to 60% less expensive than hospitals. He said the local surgery center has less overhead in supplies, less waste and more efficient preparations since it serves otherwise healthy patients for elective orthopedic procedures during weekday business hours.
On the other hand, the local hospital must be prepared for any emergency, surgery or trauma situation 24/7/365, Fidler said.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, procedures performed in ambulatory surgery centers are reported to cost Medicare 53% of the amount paid to hospital-based outpatient departments.
Although complex orthopedic surgeries still take place at YVMC, more open slots in the hospital’s operating rooms after the opening of the surgery center created times for other varied surgeries. Fidler said in comparing the single month of June 2020 with June 2021, orthopedic surgeries at YVMC dropped from 52% of overall surgeries to 30% after the new center opened. Fidler said UCHealth physicians can now offer more varied surgeries at YVMC, such as breast reconstruction and procedures in ENT (ear, nose, throat), ophthalmology and urology.
“Although there was a decrease in overall orthopedic volume (at YVMC), overall operating room volumes remained steady due to an increase in urology and general surgery cases, as well as additional plastic surgery and ENT procedures,” said Lindsey Reznicek, YVMC communications specialist. “It’s also important to note that some orthopedic surgeons were able to expand their surgical blocks at the hospital, offering even more patients the opportunity to remain local for orthopedic care.”
Just as hometown businesses in the Yampa Valley try to plug the leakage of lost sales to larger communities and the internet, Steamboat Surgery Center and the expanded operating times at YVMC are working to attract increased local and regional patients, Schlaff and Fidler confirmed. The overall 9,150-square-foot center has two operating rooms and nine pre- or post-operative bays.
To learn how much a specific surgery may cost a patient in out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance, patients can use the UCHealth online billing estimator and then ask for comparison costs from Steamboat Surgery Center.
Boucher said he tore a ligament in his hand last year while skiing, so when his shoulder is healed, he plans to head back for another procedure at the ambulatory surgery center.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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