Retired physicians call on Washington hospital to split from Virginia Mason

A group of retired physicians is urging Virginia Mason Memorial, a 256-bed hospital in Yakima, Wash., to split with Virginia Mason Health System over concerns about a potential merger, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.

In July, Seattle-based Virginia Mason Health System announced plans to merge with Tacoma, Wash.-based CHI Franciscan. 

Now, retired physicians are calling on the local Yakima hospital to drop its affiliation with Virginia Mason prior to that merger, arguing that the combination would result in fewer specialty services, fewer specialized physicians and lower quality patient care. 

Members of the retired medical community said they plan to meet with leaders from Virginia Mason Memorial the evening of Oct. 22. The meeting comes after 31 members of the retired medical community paid for a full page ad detailing their concerns about a possible merger. 

“Over the last few years we’ve seen a diminution,” said Jim Haven, MD, a retired orthopedic surgery specialist who practiced in Yakima, according to the Herald-Republic. “No open-heart surgery. No neurology service. No plastic surgeons. General surgeons in short supply. It’s been happening gradually over the last several years, but it’s been greatly accelerated since Virginia Mason Memorial took over.”

Richard Twiss, MD, a retired cardiology specialist who practiced at the facility, said that Virginia Mason Memorial has never been in a better position to pursue independence. He said there are no other competitors, as it is the only hospital in Yakima, that the hospital’s finances are more stable than Virginia Mason Health System, and it would have the community’s support. 

Virginia Mason Health System officials disagreed with the retired physicians claims, arguing the merger could improve healthcare locally.

“The combined new health system with CHI Franciscan will be focused on developing innovative models of care delivery across the entire continuum of care, while enhancing quality and the patient experience,” a Virginia Mason Health System spokesperson told the Herald-Republic. “It is our hope that we will maintain and expand access points for patients in Yakima.”

Virginia Mason Memorial joined the Virginia Mason Health System in 2016.

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