Dartmouth-Hitchcock Joins 2 Nashua Hospitals, Add Center

Nashua — The city’s two hospitals and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Nashua have joined together to create a new outpatient surgery center that adds three operating rooms to 20 already in the city, hoping that more will be less: more ORs equaling less cost.

“There’s a push to move as much outpatient surgery to outpatient settings as possible,” said Craig Beck, president of the board of directors of the Surgery Center of Greater Nashua, which scheduled its first operation, a knee arthroscopy, for Tuesday.

“Health plans are really looking to drive their patients to lower cost areas. … Rather than having this service done in the hospital, if you go to (ambulatory surgery center) and have it done, have lower co-pay, lower deductible, even lower insurance premiums,” Beck said.

The Surgery Center, which cost roughly $1.6 million to build, will operate in the former Lamprey Health Care facility alongside Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, 10 Prospect St.

It will specialize in surgeries that don’t require an overnight stay before or after the medical procedure, mostly because of types of surgery — such as work on joints, podiatry surgery, or ear, nose and throat surgery — that doesn’t require general anesthesia for longer than two hours or complicated pain management.

Patients also will be screened to reduce “co-morbidities,” unrelated medical issues that could cause problems. Importantly, the center will not take emergencies, which not only makes it easier to schedule the operating rooms but has other benefits that lead to more straightforward surgeries.

“All of our patients will have empty bellies,” said Suzanne Longshore, an operating room circulating nurse for the new facility, during a Monday tour of the facility. “That’s huge.”

Surgery at the Nashua center will be cheaper than hospital surgery because of less overhead – fewer staff on site, less equipment because it does fewer procedures, no 24-hour coverage – plus faster turnaround of patients keeping the operating rooms paying for themselves.

The Surgery Center’s creation by St. Joseph Hospital and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, each of which has nine operating rooms of its own, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock, which has two ORs used for endoscopies in its Nashua facility, is a reflection of modern health care reality, Beck said.

“Each had an ability to build an ASC if they chose to. … But having each build their own two-room ASC, is not, quite frankly, all that cost effective,” he said.