The U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Eastern District of Washington allowed Astria Regional to remain closed after a hearing this morning requested by the Washington State Nurses Association. The decision was made despite deep concerns raised by nurses and physicians that the abrupt closure will result in a catastrophic loss of medical care in the Yakima Valley. The community and workers at Regional were given only a few days’ notice of the sudden closure of the Level III Trauma Center that had the only open-heart surgery center within 100 miles.
“The sudden closure of Astria Regional, with only a few days’ notice, is inexcusable,” said Julia Barcott, RN, chair of WSNA’s Cabinet on Economic & General Welfare. “The community will suffer as a result of this rushed process, especially the poor and vulnerable.”
The court made its decision to keep Astria Regional closed after testimony from nurses and caregivers about the severe impact of the precipitous closure.
Dr. Mark Silverstein, Chief of Medical Staff and Program Director at Regional said: “The gap in coverage the Yakima Valley now faces is staggering, but Astria continues to describe this closure as a non-event. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This region will lose access to major trauma and cardiothoracic care, but it will also lose access to more routine procedures, because doctors and nurses may feel less comfortable performing them knowing Yakima Regional no longer has the resources to care for patients when complications arise. The end result of this closure is nothing less than a catastrophic decline in the medical care patients can access in our region.”
Dr. Rachel Monick echoed Silverstein’s concerns: “Closing Yakima Regional without a set backup plan or any meaningful notice will have a dramatic impact on patient outcomes. The vital cardiothoracic and neurosurgery services Yakima Regional offered were lifesaving resources during the first hour after a serious injury, and their absence will have a direct effect on the healthcare available in the Yakima area. Regional served the poorest people in one of the poorest counties in Washington, and its closure has left those populations without reliable, accessible care with virtually no warning.”
WSNA-represented nurses who dedicated themselves to Regional for years, through multiple owners, also spoke to the severe impact the hospital’s closure will have on the community and those who worked there.
Laurie Robinson, an ER/Trauma nurse, said: “My thirty-plus years working as a nurse in this area have taught me that a region as large as Yakima needs more than one Level III hospital to serve emergency trauma patients. Yakima Regional’s closure will deny patients access to the trauma and cardiac care they need, and Yakima Memorial will not be equipped to handle the overflow of patients our hospital once served.”
Lisa Bullek, a same-day surgery nurse, said: “Astria knows firsthand the impact this closure will have on the community. I met with them face-to-face in an employee forum with about 20 other employees, and they guaranteed the State would never permit them to close a not-for-profit hospital like Yakima Regional because it was such an unparalleled resource for the Valley. Now they’re closing anyway, and our community – particularly our low-income neighbors – are the ones who will suffer.”
Evette Runyon, a nurse in the Acute Care Unit, said: “I know firsthand what an impact Yakima Regional has on this community – I’ve worked there as a nurse for over eleven years, and I was recently a patient there myself. When I needed emergency back surgery, having Yakima Regional’s neurosurgery services at my disposal made all the difference. Astria’s closure of the hospital will deny other patients that valuable resource.”
WSNA continues to advocate for fair compensation and employment opportunities for the many nurses who abruptly lost their jobs, as well as for the health care needs of the Yakima Valley community.