John Procopio was part of the bargaining team for SEIU Healthcare 1199NW that negotiated a new agreement with Astria Regional Medical Center that was approved in 2019.
A year later, it was the union that told Procopio, who worked as a nurse extender, about the hospital’s closure on Wednesday.
“I actually found out from my union rep,” he said. “Then my mother contacted me and said, ‘I just saw on Facebook, they’re closing your facility, what’s going on?’”
Procopio has worked for the hospital 23 years under several owners. He places much of the blame for the hospital’s decline on former owners Health Management Associates and Community Health Systems.
“They destroyed relationships with the community and broke the community’s faith in the hospital,” he said. “Astria wasn’t able to regain that in a timely fashion to make the facility viable.”
Closing the hospital is going to have a huge impact on health care in the Yakima Valley, Procopio said.
“I hope going forward you don’t see complacency in the community in what (health care) is provided for them,” he said. “Because without competition, there’s no need to be better or to do better.”
Astria Health is keeping its outpatient and ambulatory services open in Yakima, and Astria Regional had a symbiotic relationship with those operations.
“What is the viability of these services longterm if there is nobody sending them business, if it’s strictly word of mouth?” he said. “Does it continue to decrease?”
He’s also thinking about his next job and he expects that finding one will be a challenge.
“I will be looking at the same position as everyone else and hoping and praying I’m one of the lucky people to get hired.”
He’s looking into jobs in health care, but he’s not against looking for jobs in other industries he’s worked at, such as retail.
“I’m looking at those options, anything where I can take care of my family,” he said. “That’s my priority, that’s my concern.”