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CMS Suggests Reopening of Ambulatory Surgery Centers (Phase I)

On March 18, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recommended limiting non-essential care and expanding surge capacity into ambulatory surgical centers. However, CMS now recognizes that many areas have a low and stable incidence of COVID-19 cases. CMS states, “It is important to be flexible and allow facilities to provide care for patients needing non-emergent, non-COVID-19 healthcare.” They continue by saying, “As states and localities begin to stabilize, it is important to restart care that is currently being postponed, such as certain procedural care (surgeries and procedures), chronic disease care, and, ultimately, preventive care. Patients continue to have ongoing healthcare needs that are currently being deferred. Therefore, if states or regions have passed the Gating Criteria (symptoms, cases, and hospitals) announced on April 16, 2020, then they may proceed to Phase I.”

The guidelines CMS lays out to reopen ambulatory surgery centers include general considerations, personal protective equipment recommendations, workforce availability, facility considerations, sanitation protocols, adequate supplies of equipment, and adequate testing capacity. CMS concludes by stating, “All facilities should continually evaluate whether their region remains a low risk of incidence and should be prepared to cease non-essential procedures if there is a surge. By following the above recommendations, flexibility can allow for safely extending in-person non-emergent care in select communities and facilities.”