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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Astria Health will close Family Maternity Center at Toppenish hospital

By Santiago Ochoa Yakima Herald-Republic

The Family Maternity Center at Astria Toppenish Hospital will close in January.

The hospital cited financial losses, fewer deliveries and reduced Medicaid funding as reasons for the decision, which will take effect on Jan. 14.

The Toppenish hospital had fewer than 400 deliveries in 2022, which officials said was unsustainable to maintain services. Over the past five years, the hospital has seen a 50% decrease in deliveries, according to information from Astria about the closure.

The hospital said a reduction of Medicaid reimbursement from 150% to 100% in July contributed to the decision. The center has lost $3.2 million in the past 12 months, a news release said. The hospital in Toppenish is on the Yakama Reservation.

Astria began heavily recruiting permanent staff and physicians for the center in fall 2021, but wasn’t able to find the number of staff needed.

“We performed herculean efforts to sustain our beloved maternity center, but unfortunately, due to rising costs, labor storages and a significant reduction in Medicaid reimbursement, we’re unable to keep it open,” Toppenish Hospital Administrator Cathy Bambrick said in the news release.

Astria said pre and post-delivery services will continue to be offered by the Astria physicians and clinics. Laboratory and ultrasound services will continue to be offered to pregnant individuals at the Toppenish hospital.

“Dr. Miguel Brizuela and Dr. Robert Wells are highly skilled OB/GYNs and provide a full spectrum of obstetrics and gynecological services,” the hospital said.

Hospital officials said patients will work with their OB/GYNs and nurse midwives to decide where they will deliver their babies. Options include Astria Sunnyside Hospital or Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital.

In an interview, Bambrick said other health care organizations were informed of the impending change.

“We work every day with our community partners … we’ve all had difficult decisions,” Bambrick said. “We transfer patients to Yakima Memorial Hospital every day when our hospital is full. Sunnyside, out sister hospital, really supports us as well … It takes all of us to serve this community and we work together every day and do the best we can do.”

Memorial has a neonatal intensive care unit. Astria Sunnyside has a DaVinci Xi robot to assist with gynecological surgery.

Some Lower Valley patients use Prosser Memorial Hospital.

In situations where patients in active labor come to Toppenish, hospital staff will follow the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, Astria officials said. If there is no time to stabilize and transfer the patient before delivery, the hospital will deliver the baby in the emergency room.

“If a patient comes to our Emergency Room in active labor, we will assess the patient and provide the necessary care,” Dr. Raul Garcia, the Toppenish Emergency Department medical director, said in the news release. “We will deliver babies in the emergency room, when necessary, stabilize the patient and baby, and then transfer them to a nearby facility for follow-up care.”

Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic OB/GYNs and pediatricians halted deliveries at the Toppenish hospital in November 2021, moving those deliveries to Yakima Valley Memorial. Farm Workers returned to using Toppenish again in March 2022.

Like hospitals around the state, Astria Health has been cutting back services to address financial losses. Astria previously announced it will cut some cardiology services at its Lower Valley hospitals and clinics starting Friday.