Back to articles

Hospital Services and Clinics Are In Full Operation During Transition

News Walla Walla General Hospital and its clinics currently remains fully operational even as they announce plans to close July 24. 

"We are continuing to provide patients with safe, quality care at the hospital and clinics and plan to do so until we close. All of our services, including emergency and surgical services, are fully operational and patients are seeing their physicians as scheduled," says Joyce Newmyer, President of Adventist Health Pacific Northwest Region and Board Chair of Walla Walla General Hospital.

Although Walla Walla General Hospital will no longer operate clinics after July 24, this does not mean their physicians will no longer practice in this area. "Most of our physicians are hoping to stay in the community, and are exploring various options to that end," says Newmyer. "Since demand for care is not going to diminish, these physicians recognize the continued need for their services in Walla Walla.

This week, Providence Health and Services and Walla Walla Clinic have indicated their interest in retaining Walla Walla Medical Group physicians.

Physicians will be notifying patients as soon as possible of their plans to provide local care beyond July 24, but patients should expect that it may take physicians some time beyond that date to determine their plans. "We recognize this is a difficult situation for patients, and are doing all we can to communicate information as soon as it is available," says Newmyer. Many Walla Walla Medical Group physicians are already on the medical staff of Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Walla Walla Medical Group physicians who choose to remain in the community will still have hospital privileges locally.

Patients do not need to be concerned about obtaining medical records prior to July 24, as Adventist Health will retain medical records after the closure. However, patients who want a copy of their medical record or want Walla Walla General Hospital to send a copy to another provider prior to closure may fill out an authorization form and return it by mail or in person to the hospital’s medical records office at 1025 South Second Ave., Walla Walla, WA 99362, before July 24. Patients will also be able to request medical records from Adventist Health at any time after the closure by going to the hospital’s website for details on how to access their records.

Adventist Health is working to help employees and physicians through this transition by offering career services, counseling, benefits, and other resources. A career event will occur within the next 2 weeks at the hospital featuring more than a dozen local employers recruiting staff to help fill their open positions.

"Our employees have shown remarkable resilience during this time, remaining focused on good patient care even while facing personal uncertainty. We are deeply indebted to them for the grace, dignity, and professionalism they are exhibiting even while facing this difficult situation," says Newmyer. "We are hopeful many will be able to continue to stay in this community."

The decision to close comes on the heels of unexpected regulatory challenges to the membership transfer which could have lingered for an undetermined duration of time and could ultimately have prohibited the anticipated transfer of membership. This would not only add cost but further prolong the uncertainty many have already experienced in recent months—a situation Adventist Health felt would be untenable for physicians, staff, and the community. In such a scenario, continued loss of staff and specialty services due to that uncertainty would have created an environment which negatively impacted the ability to deliver quality care.

Recent decades have introduced deeper and deeper cuts into hospital reimbursements, while demand and costly technology has increased. This widening gap between costs and income has made operations impossible for many hospitals—even those like Walla Walla General that work tirelessly to control costs.

Coupled with plummeting reimbursement, declining volumes continued to stretch Walla Walla General Hospital financially. Healthcare economics do not support the operation of a 72-bed facility with an average daily inpatient census in single digits. The hospital explored every option available to continue to create a sustainable model—from upgrading facilities and launching new services to seeking out other partners and alliances that would help make the hospital financially viable. Adventist Health invested more than $68 million into WWGH in recent years.

Healthcare leaders at Providence Health and Services have expressed confidence they can meet the needs of the community. "Providence is well acquainted with this community’s needs and has the expertise and dedication to respond to this change and to preserve Walla Walla’s high standard of medical care," says Newmyer. "It will, however, take time to make this transition. We appreciate the community's patience during this time. We also encourage you to support your local healthcare workers, who are working harder than ever to offer care during this time of transition."