Stand-alone surgical centers in York County -- as well as the entire state -- have tripled in the past decade, according to a report released earlier this month by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

The outpatient facilities generally offer less costly medical procedures and can turn over cases at a faster rate while decreasing surgical complications, one hospital official said.

As a result, the report showed a trend that more patients are opting to have surgeries in stand-alone facilities rather than hospital operating rooms, said Stephanie Suran, spokeswoman with the council.

And the report revealed that the county's growing number of ambulatory surgery centers are financially stable, Suran said.

The trend: As the costs of acute care services increase, patient care is being shifted more to the outpatient setting, said Keith Noll, senior vice president of ambulatory and post acute services at WellSpan Health.

That, in turn, places a higher demand for ambulatory surgery centers, he said.

And the council's report, compiled from data collected over the past four years, shows a rapid increase in the number of free-standing outpatient surgery centers in Pennsylvania.

Between fiscal years 2008 and 2009, 19 new centers opened and one closed, bringing the statewide total to 262, the report stated. By comparison, there were only 72 centers in the state in fiscal year 2000.


York County is home to 12 outpatient surgery centers, a significant increase from the four documented in 1999-2000.

Standalone centers throughout the county that are new in the recent report include East York Eye Surgical Center, Elmwood Endoscopy Center, Eyes of York Surgical Center, Foot and Ankle Surgical Center, Leader Surgical Centers, Memorial Outpatient Endoscopy, Orthopaedic & Spine Specialists Surgical Center, York Endoscopy and York Pain Specialists.

Outpatient surgery centers across Pennsylvania reported 4.1 percent of their patients had Medicaid coverage, which compares to 11 percent at outpatient facilities operated by general acute care hospitals.

Outpatient surgery centers also reported that 53.8 percent of their patients were covered by commercial health insurance, compared with 46.8 percent of patients in the average hospital-operated outpatient center.

Helpful tool: The report should be used as a "benchmarking tool" that hospitals and surgical center officials can use to judge the long-range financial health of their facility and trends in outpatient care, Suran said.

"Hospitals and free-standing outpatient surgery centers must be financially successful in order to maintain a high quality, cost-effective health care delivery system," Suran said.

WellSpan, a health group which operates York and Gettysburg hospitals, used the report to "see how we compare to other surgical centers in the community," Noll said.

Apple Hill Surgical Center in York is a free-standing facility which "was once one of the busiest surgery centers in the state," said Noll, noting the center originally opened in 1987 "to help decompress patient volume from the hospitals."

"Hospital operating rooms used to be so crowded that a new way was needed to move surgeries to make room for inpatient procedures," Noll said.

"As surgeries became more technically sophisticated, outpatient care was a safe approach and many more centers (like Apple Hill) were built," he added.

-- Reach Lauren Whetzel at 505-5433.