Yakima Valley Memorial cuts traveling staff in response to ‘large financial losses’ | Local

Continuing financial losses are causing Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital officials to cut traveling staff.

The hospital confirmed to the Yakima Herald-Republic on Thursday that it will reduce its use of traveling nurses within the next month, and will adjust its staffing in response to “large financial losses” it is facing in 2022.

“Memorial’s goal is to be sustainable now and into the future,” hospital officials said in an email to the Herald-Republic. “We are decreasing our reliance on traveling staff and updating our staffing plan to align with existing resources.”

As the Washington State Hospital Association recently reported, hospitals and health care facilities throughout the state have faced financial difficulties and staffing shortages for the first two quarters of 2022, and Memorial is no different.

The statement from Memorial officials noted Washington state has 6,800 open RN positions across the health care spectrum, with 35 RN positions currently open at the Yakima hospital.

“Memorial, like other hospitals in Washington and nationwide, is facing large financial losses in 2022 – nearly $1 billion for Washington hospitals combined in the first quarter alone,” the statement noted. “Massively inflated costs for travelers is one of the main drivers of expenses outpacing resources. Another factor is fixed reimbursement that does not increase with inflation or increased costs.”

The statement didn’t provide specific financial information about Memorial’s current budget situation.

Rocky times

In July, Memorial vice president and chief financial officer Susan Sauder said the hospital “has suffered unsustainable negative margins and cash flow through the first two quarters of 2022.”

Sauder said the struggle to find employees and the use of temporary workers to fill some of those openings have contributed to Memorial’s financial problems, with temporary labor costs escalating by 201% during the past year.

Yakima Valley Memorial, WA state hospital association report heavy financial losses

When asked Thursday if a reduction in traveling nurses would mean a reduced capacity or fewer beds available at the hospital, Memorial officials didn’t respond directly, saying:

“Our approach to patient care and our commitment to this community has not changed. Positive outcomes for patients is our No. 1 priority. With proactive steps we can ensure that access to key acute care services remains in Yakima.”

Memorial, the city’s only full-service hospital and trauma center, has 226 licensed beds according to the hospital’s website. It was founded in 1950 and is governed by the private, non-profit Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital Association.

David Hargreaves, chairman of Memorial’s board of directors, said Thursday hospital officials are working with community health care partners on solutions to the facility’s financial difficulties.

“Memorial’s goal is to be sustainable now and into the future, and we are focused on ensuring that access to key acute care services remains in Yakima,” Hargreaves said. “A central element of this goal is to help patients receive the right care in the right location, and use of our inpatient resources for acutely ill patients.

“With proactive steps and the cooperation and understanding of our community, we can provide quality local care for years to come,” he added.

Multicare merger pending

On May 9, officials with Memorial and MultiCare Health Systems of Tacoma said the two health organizations were considering a merger. A “due diligence and information sharing process” that originally was estimated to take two months has been extended through the summer.

Yakima Valley Memorial, MultiCare officials extend timeline for merger discussions

In its Thursday statement, hospital officials said the nursing and other staffing decisions being made at Memorial are not tied to the potential merger.

“The due diligence process with MultiCare remains on track,” the statement noted. “The possibility of integration does not change our current financial situation.”

Carrie Youngblood, Memorial’s chief people officer, said the hospital is also exploring long-range answers to its shortage of nurses and candidates for nursing job openings.

“We are increasing community outreach efforts at local colleges and universities to strengthen the recruitment pipeline and bring new staff to our workforce,” Youngblood said. “Memorial also offers internal development programs such as RN residency, Nursing Assistant residency, pharmacy residency and a pharmacy tech training program.”

This story is developing and will be updated.

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