Dozens of locals speak out about pending sale of two Yakima Valley hospitals

Dozens of locals speak out about pending sale of two Yakima Valley hospitals

YAKIMA, Wash.- People throughout the valley showed up on Tuesday afternoon in downtown Yakima at the Yakima Labor and Industries Building to share their opinion on the pending purchase of two local hospitals.

Two different hearings, one in Toppenish and one in Yakima, were hosted by the state Department of Health to get feedback from the community as they decide on whether to approve the purchase.

The purchase would combine Yakima Regional and Toppenish Community Hospital with Sunnyside Community Hospital, also owned by Regional Health.

It was standing room only on Tuesday afternoon during the Yakima public hearing, with many anxious to share their view on the potential sale.

Those comments will be an essential piece of the state Department of Health's decision to either grant or deny the purchase of the two hospitals to Regional Health.

Leaders at Regional Health say the $31 million purchase will alter the way our Valley does healthcare, returning both Yakima Regional and Toppenish Community Hospital back to not-for-profit organizations which they say would allow greater reinvestment back into our local healthcare system.

It’s a change many are supporting, including those working at Yakima Regional.

"Their money would stay here where as the big companies will send their money elsewhere in the stock market or wherever else it goes. My wife and I and other people in our office are in fear that if CHS continues to run Regional they're going to run it into the ground, our employees will lose their jobs, and basically we'll close," said Dr. James Kneeler, who spoke for the purchase during the Yakima public hearing.

Others in favor say the purchase will mean more access to healthcare for people here, providing localized healthcare from Ellensburg to the Tri-Cities.

One man spoke on behalf of his 88-year-old mother-in-law who he claims has personally struggled with getting the healthcare she needs.

"Each time she was discharged she had to wait a week or two to see her family physician. Her most recent admission for a mini stroke is likely due to uncontrolled blood pressure. Given these issues, my wife and I had to transfer her care to services in Seattle to get the care for her that she needs," said Eric Chanson, also speaking for the purchase.

Chanson says his observance of Regional Health's impact in Sunnyside has earned his trust.

"Regional Health has already demonstrated its ability to improve access and choice for patients like Marie in the lower Yakima Valley through recruitment and service expansion as part of this acquisition Regional Health is committed to doing the same thing in Yakima," said Chanson.

However, others aren't so convinced.

“If the hospitals are purchased one could expect that their services will be tailored to maximize profit, as did HMA as perceived by the community, by maximizing testing, minimizing staffing, and cherry picking high-margin services,” said Dr. Steve Shaul, speaking against the purchase.

All comments to consider, as the state Department of Health decides the future of our Valley's healthcare.

Leaders at Regional Health say they expect a decision from the state Department of Health sometime next month.

We will of course continue to follow this story as it unfolds.

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