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  • Writer's pictureSean Friel

AtlantiCare celebrating 25 years of outpatient surgery

Lori Herndon, MBA, BSN, RN, president and CEO of AtlantiCare. (Courtesy Photo)

AtlantiCare recently marked the 25th year of the opening of its flagship ambulatory surgery center in Egg Harbor Twp., N.J. In the last 25 years, AtlantiCare has taken same day surgery to new heights, with a combined 350,757 surgeries performed including 276,714 at its first site as of April 9, 2022.

Lori Hendon, MBA, BSN, RN, president and CEO of AtlantiCare, met with the team when they celebrated their anniversary.

“You’ve made such a tremendous difference to our community,” Herndon said.

Herndon proceeded to congratulate and thank the Surgery Center team for the difference that it had made.

Francis Previti, M.D., AtlantiCare Surgery Center (ASC) president and surgeon; anesthesiologist Richard Zalman, M.D., executive medical director, ASCs; and Kimberly Kirk, director of Finance, ASCs, said services have grown in the last 25 years at AtlantiCare facilities, based on their flagship center’s care model.

“Twenty-five years ago most procedures were done in the hospital, even those procedures that went home the same day,” Zalman said.

He said AtlantiCare and its physicians had great foresight in starting the flagship center, which started off performing around 600 surgeries a year. In recent years, AtlantiCare has done an average of more than 11,000 cases a year at the flagship site.

Previti was one of the pioneers in the AtlantiCare surgery center, as he was among the planning team that opened the center. Previti also performed the first surgery at the center. He explained that the president and CEO of AtlantiCare at the time, George Lynn, foresaw the growth of same day surgery.

“It was intuitive. Surgery in an ambulatory setting is less costly because there is lower overhead and fixed costs. It’s more efficient in terms of scheduling surgeries. For example, in a hospital setting, hospital surgical teams by their very nature, provide emergency and scheduled surgeries,” he said.

Zalman said the continued—and growing—need to provide outpatient services outside of a hospital setting led AtlantiCare to open surgery centers in its Cape May Court House, Health Park in 2009 under then AtlantiCare President CEO David Tilton, and in Little Egg Harbor, in 2014 under Tilton’s and Herndon’s leadership.

Zalman said AtlantiCare opened the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery in 2020 in the same Egg Harbor Twp. Health Park as the flagship site in part, due to the increase in need for outpatient hip, knee and other orthopaedic outpatient surgeries. Hendon said at the ribbon cutting for that site, “We are embracing the future, changing the paradigm and creating capabilities that our community needs and deserves.”

Some procedures still take place in a hospital setting, Zalman said. A pre-admission process is strictly followed to ensure patients are candidates for the surgery centers.

Previti added physicians look at the same day procedure as the first choice for those who qualify.

“It is convenient, safe and efficient. Patients love it because of the exceptional customer experience we can provide. Our staff is patient centered and focused on teamwork,” Previti said.

AtlantiCare’s four surgery centers now do a combined more than 4,000 diagnostic and preventive procedures.

Kirk said over the years, AtlantiCare’s surgery centers have also expanded their specialty surgery services based on the community needs. Such additions include oral surgery, gynecological procedures and even cardiology.

“We work with leadership in order to expand those service lines in order to provide those services at the center,” Kirk said.

When discussing other advances and expansions, Zalman added that pain management has been a crucial component. Non-narcotic medications can be used in procedures. Nerve blocks are also used to control pain after the procedure and during. There are also medications to prevent nausea, and even anesthesia that runs out quickly so the patients can feel well after the surgery.

“Patients often come in nervous and stressed over their procedures,” James Leonard, RT, (R), (AART), a radiologic technologist who has worked at the flagship center since 2005 and is a Hammonton resident said.

“Our experienced, knowledgeable, proficient team, cares for, communicates with and calms patients as if they were our own family members. We want them to have a positive surgical experience and outcome. We not only work here, we also make a difference here,” Leonard said.

Gina Rullo contributed to this report.


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