Pine Grove ASC gives residents an alternative for medical care

The Pine Grove Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) is not an extension of Warren General Hospital.

Scott Spangler, the ASC’s new Executive Director, said that since he’s been here in February the majority of people he interacts with either don’t know what the ASC is, or think that it’s just another arm of WGH. It’s not, he said.

“Although Warren General Hospital is an owner and is invested in the center, Pine Grove is an LLC, with the majority of ownership held by the physicians who perform multi-specialty surgeries at the center,” said Spangler.

Anyone who’s been to the surgery center knows that it’s an in-and-out type of place. And that’s the point, said Spangler. In 2005, Spangler said, WGH and investing physicians got together and created the center, starting construction in 2006.

In February of 2008 the first procedure was done at the ASC. “Since then,” said Spangler, “we’ve done around 32,000 procedures at the center in six major areas of specialty.”

The center has three operating suites, two endoscopy suites, and separate areas for pre-and post-operative care as well as a large waiting room. In all, the center is a suitable facility for many endoscopic, opthamologic, otorhinolaryngologic, podiatric, orthopedic, pain management, and general surgical procedures, said Spangler.

The center employs five full-time and five part-time registered nurses, three full-time and one part-time surgical technicians, two full-time and two part-time medical assistants, 12 additional per diem nursing staff members to meet patient care demand, one part-time maintenance person, three full-time and one part-time employees in the business office, and contracted anesthesiologists and X-ray technicians.

“It’s a pretty efficient way to practice,” said Spangler. And having procedures done at the center, he said, creates shorter wait times for patients, easier scheduling, and lighter anesthesia for a quicker recovery. As people are becoming more and more conscious of copays, deductibles, and other costs associated with care, said Spangler, the benefits of taking advantage of ambulatory surgery centers become more and more obvious.

“What we get paid for a service vs. what an inpatient facility gets paid are very different things,” Spangler said. “If you’re paying ten percent of an amount, you want to be paying ten percent of a lesser amount.”

Originally, nine physicians invested in the center. Today, there are thirteen. Physicians have the opportunity to become involved with the ASC in either practicing or investment relationships. Physicians need not invest in the center — becoming a co-owner of the center — to practice there, although, said Spangler, they need to be practicing there to invest.

Still, said Spangler, “we’re not operating at full capacity.”

One of the biggest challenges Spangler sees in the ASC’s future is recruiting new physicians not just to the area, but to become affiliated with the ASC.

“We’re a community resource,” said Spangler. “I don’t want us to continue to be overlooked.” Many people, said Spangler, assume that he’s an employee of Warren General Hospital. It’s important, he said, for people to know that the ASC is a potential alternative to a more lengthy, costly inpatient stay for certain procedures at their doctor’s discretion.