Sacramento-Area Hospitals Face ‘Head-to-Head’ Competition With Independent Surgical Centers
Creating a climate of "direct competition" with local hospitals, physicians in Folsom and Roseville are "backing a move" toward independent surgery centers and away from hospitals where doctors maintain surgical privileges, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. A $1.2 million to $1.5 million, 4,500-square-foot center in Roseville is set to open in February or March 2002, and the comparably priced, 6,300-square-foot Folsom Surgery Center could open as early as December of this year. The independent outpatient centers will "bring down the cost and shorten the delay for getting low-risk elective surgeries," according to local surgeons. Physicians said that part of the reason behind building independent centers is that "overloaded" hospital operating rooms and "busy" emergency rooms have created scheduling difficulties. Doctors "want a place that's convenient to use, more efficient, run the way they want -- and able to provide a good return on their investment," the Business Journal reports. Surgery centers like the ones set to open next year in Folsom and Roseville are less expensive to operate than hospitals due to the specialization in services; hospitals "must take care of everybody who comes in the door," whereas surgery centers are able to "streamline" staff and equipment and only offer outpatient procedures.
In response, hospitals will need to open surgery centers of their own "real fast" to "keep th[e] business" of insured elective surgery, which has been "helping [hospitals] cover the cost of caring" for uninsured patients. Both Sutter Health in Roseville and Mercy Healthcare Sacramento in Folsom face losing "some of the most lucrative lines of business" to the surgery centers. Physicians who oppose the move to independent surgery centers say they worry about patients' access to care. Dr. Barbara Arnold, an ophthalmologist who declined an offer to join an independent surgery center in Fort Sutter, said, "[T]hese centers are in a position to skim off top patients, leaving hospitals ... with the sickest patients. If these centers come in and rake off patients, it's taking away the safety net from hospitals" (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 9/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.