About three months after Virginia Mason Health System announced it plans to merge with one of the country's largest health systems, its hospital in Yakima, Wash. has decided to part ways with the Seattle-based health system, citing the desire to keep healthcare independent.
The board of directors for Virginia Mason Memorial voted this week to end the hospital's affiliation with Virginia Mason. The move came after community members raised concerns about the health system's plan to combine with CommonSpirit Health's CHI Franciscan.
"As Virginia Mason Health System and CHI Franciscan Health System prepare to form a Joint Operating Company, the VMM Board of Directors wanted to ensure that health care in the Yakima Valley remained local and dedicated to caring for our Central Washington community," a statement from the hospital's board said.
Despite the hospital's decision, Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan said in a joint statement that they remain committed to the Yakima Valley and look forward to finding ways for the new health system to provide care for people in the region.
"We think highly of the Virginia Mason Memorial team, we wish them well and continue to share their commitment to the health of patients in the community," the systems said.
The proposed partnership has big implications for Yakima in particular, where Virginia Mason Memorial is the only acute-care hospital. CHI Franciscan adheres to a set of rules governing Catholic healthcare, which forbid services like abortion, contraception, tubal ligation, gender transition surgery and physician aid-in-dying, which is legal in Washington.
If the deal goes through, Virginia Mason has said it will stop providing certain reproductive health services and physician aid-in-dying, but has not been more specific. That drew concern from groups like ACLU Washington.
Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan said they plan to complete their merger by the year's end, but they have not yet announced a definitive agreement, which is necessary to trigger regulatory reviews, including by Washington state's Attorney General.