Ames could get first outpatient surgery center through Mary Greeley, McFarland partnership

Danielle Gehr
Ames Tribune

A state board approved plans for a new outpatient surgery center earlier this month, the first of its kind in Ames.  

A partnership between Mary Greeley Medical Center and McFarland Clinic, the center was recently approved by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the State Health Facilities Council. The center is expected to reduce the need for rescheduling, improve affordability and help with surgeon retention and recruitment. 

"This will just be a huge benefit for our community," Mary Greeley Medical Center Vice President of Clinical and Support Services Amber Deardorff said. "We're not taking away services. We're just going to add to the services that our medical community can provide for our town. It's a win, for sure."

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Physicians at the center will perform endoscopies and surgeries where patients can go home the same day or be kept for up to 23 hours if necessary. Physicians will specialize in gastroenterology; general surgery; gynecology; ophthalmology; orthopedics; plastic surgery; podiatry; urology; and ear, nose and throat.

Currently, most area surgeries are done at Mary Greeley, where room or staff shortages mean an elective surgery could get postponed. The new center would reduce the need for last-minute rescheduling. 

"That causes an inconvenience both to the patients that have an elective case that gets bumped and also provides an inconvenience to the surgeon who may be having their time bumped," McFarland CEO Andrew Perry said.

Deardorff said that thanks to having fewer overhead costs than the hospital, surgeries at the center will cost less. She said insurance companies sometimes tell patients to find an outpatient center for their procedure as they won't pay for hospital costs.

Some patients will benefit from not having to navigate Mary Greeley's campus to get to a procedure like a cataract surgery that likely takes less time than the drive over, Deardorff said.

"They have to navigate our very busy parking garage, go down an elevator to get into our hospital, get registered, sit in a waiting room, go through a pretty complex admission process for a five-minute procedure," Deardorff said. 

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The location of the new center has not been finalized but will be off the Mary Greeley campus, Perry said. 

Another benefit of the center is the possible recruitment and retention of surgeons, Perry said. Some surgeons prefer an outpatient center setting due to its more consistent scheduling and because surgeons would be equity owners of the center. 

Once construction documents are completed, Perry said, they hope to break ground in April 2023 and open operations toward the end of 2024. 

The project awaits approval from both organizations' boards, which will await review of site location, building plans and cost. 

"What the patient would experience when they come in, they're not going to have to go through the same lengthy process of registration as a patient does at a hospital," Perry said, "And when they're discharged, they should be out the door quicker."

Danielle Gehr is a politics and government reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached by email at dgehr@gannett.com, phone at (515) 663-6925 or on Twitter at @Dani_Gehr.