Hospitals May Utilize ASCs and Other Facilities for COVID-19 Patient Surge
The healthcare industry is collectively bracing for a surge of coronavirus-infected patients who need hospitalization. Estimates vary on when the wave of patients will crest, but rapid infection will undoubtedly strain existing resources, leaving hospitals with more patients than available beds or isolation areas.
In anticipation of this, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will allow hospitals to increase capacity by temporarily extending their license to other facilities. Under this extension, hospitals can now do the following:
- Contract with Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) to utilize their services and rooms
- Utilize existing distinct part units, such as psychiatric, in-patient rehabilitation facilities, or long-term acute care facilities that are already in service, without being penalized for relocating patients from the distinct unit to an acute care bed and unit
- Transfer hospitalized patients to other types of hospitals, in-patient rehabilitation facilities, and long-term acute care hospitals
- Transfer patients to a skilled nursing facility without the requisite prior three-day in-patient stay
While each of these options has distinct requirements, the overall theme is that other health facilities can temporarily function as hospitals, assuming they are already approved by their state’s licensing agency. Hospitals may also utilize non-healthcare facilities such as hotels and dormitories for patients with lower acuity.
ASCs may also temporarily enroll and function as hospitals in their own right during the emergency declaration period, but they must still adhere to their state’s emergency preparedness and pandemic plan, which undoubtedly discourages elective surgeries. ASC managers should consider contacting the hospital with which they have a transfer agreement to explore options for patient placement.
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