Squeezed by competition from Tacoma's two mega health systems, lower medical reimbursements and the recession, a 30-year-old independent surgery center is closing its doors today.
The Tacoma Ambulatory Surgery Center at 1112 Sixth Ave. is handling its last seven outpatient surgeries today, said Jason Forbes, the center administrator.
"The writing has been on the wall for sometime now," said Forbes.
Over the last two years, he said. the number of surgeries the center performs has dropped by half.
Two years ago, the center typically would handle 190 to 200 surgeries a month, said Forbes. This month that number dropped to 80. In August, the number was 107.
The center's leadership made the decision two weeks ago to close for good.
TASC has gradually decreased its employment from 32 to 12 as the number of operations declined.
Forbes said several factors account for business drop.
The recession affected the number of surgeries being performed throughout the health network nationwide.
And pending changes in government health care legislation will translate to lesser fees and reimbursement for doctors and the surgery center.
Tacoma's two major health systems, MultiCare and Franciscan, seeing the same factors affecting their business, have acted aggressively to buy up individual surgery practices to ensure that those doctors perform their operations within their network of hospitals, said Forbes.
"We saw the number of doctors who used our facilities dwindling as the big health systems acquired more and more practices," said the TASC administrator.
"We were caught in a fight between two 800-pound gorillas," he said.
MultiCare owns Tacoma General, Mary Bridge, Allenmore, Good Samaritan hospitals and Auburn Regional Medical Center. Franciscan operates St. Joseph, St. Clare, St. Anthony, St. Elizabeth and St. Frances hospitals in the South Sound. Franciscan is exploring a merger with Highline Medical Center in Burien.
Both health systems have built an extensive network of clinics and specialty centers in Pierce and King counties.
Forbes said the remaining staff will hold a modest party after the last surgery is done today.
The center will take about 30 days to wrap up its business before vacating its building. Medical records will be archived and will be available through the surgeons who performed the operations.