Virginia Mason Memorial hospital had little information to share Monday about a weekend board retreat.
The board “continues to do its due diligence” about the hospital’s future, but a weekend board meeting was confidential, a spokesperson said Monday.
Seattle-based Virginia Mason Health System and CHI-Franciscan, a Catholic-affiliated health care system, are in merger talks. A group of local community members advocated last week for Memorial to split from Virginia Mason because of concerns about local access to health care.
Memorial board chairman David Hargreaves did not have additional comment about developments.
Richard Twiss, a retired cardiology specialist with more than 60 years of experience, is part of a group of retired medical professionals who have urged Memorial to separate from Virginia Mason. He said Monday he’s not aware of any developments. The group has said the merger could result in fewer specialty services available locally, fewer specialized physicians and lower-quality patient care.
Twiss also denounced the secrecy surrounding the possible merger dealings.
“It’s critical for the community to be informed on this subject,” he said. “The local board of VMM has responsibility for a critical local institution. Secrecy is not an option.”
Memorial is a private nonprofit and has been affiliated with Virginia Mason since 2016.
Virginia Mason has said the merger could improve access to health care in Yakima and it has no plans to reduce care offerings here.
Others have argued the merger could affect reproductive health care and Death with Dignity services. CHI Franciscan is bound by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which limit abortion and physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients. In August, Virginia Mason officials said they would ensure the merger does not cause CHI Franciscan to come out of compliance with the directives.
Memorial is the only hospital in Yakima following the closure of Astria Regional Medical Center in January. Astria Health filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year. It continues to operate hospitals in Sunnyside and Toppenish.
Other Memorial board members are Richard Martinez, Sarah Augustine, Dr. Kerry Harthcock, Cynthia Juarez, Dr. Stephen Rupp, James Young, Buffy Alegria, Sonia Rodriguez True, Bruce Heiser, Maribel Torres Jiménez, Gail Weaver and Carole Peet, the hospital CEO.