Washington state nurses urge judge to keep hospital open

Nurses at Astria Health's hospital in Yakima, Wash., are urging a bankruptcy court judge to reconsider the hospital's closure, according to the union that represents them.

The Washington State Nurses Association's emergency motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Washington claims that the court's Jan. 8 decision allowing Astria Health to close Astria Regional Medical Center in Yakima "will have a profound negative impact on the community that the medical center serves, depriving local residents of a trauma center that provides emergency care to those in urgent need."

In the motion, the union also claims the court's closure order will "upend the lives" of medical center employees, and that the court made the decision "without giving any notice or any chance to be heard to parties in interest," including the union.

Additionally, the union, which represents 140 Astria Regional nurses, claims employees were not notified enough in advance so they could negotiate to keep earned benefits such as sick and vacation time, KIMA reports.

"All the nurses that have sick pay, that have vacation pay, they're losing their insurance, this should have been mandatory bargaining for us because we represent them," Julia Barcott, the Cabinet chair of the Washington State Nurses Association, told the TV station, adding that the union wants employees to be able to keep earned benefits if they have to move to another job.

After receiving the emergency motion, the bankruptcy court scheduled a hearing for Jan. 14 to consider the request for reconsideration. The hearing will give the union an opportunity to have witnesses in support of the emergency motion, make arguments and pose questions to Astria Health CEO John Gallagher, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Astria attributed the closure to financial struggles at Astria Regional, which has lost more than $40 million since August 2017.

A health system statement said Astria sought lenders that would provide additional liquidity to the medical center and sought to sell the medical center or partner with nearby hospitals, but these efforts were unsuccessful.

Astria said as many affected employees as possible will be given consideration for other positions within Astria or receive job search help. Meetings with union representatives are scheduled this week.


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