Astria hospital reopening put on hold as resources redirected to long-term care facilities

Astria Regional

YAKIMA, Wash. — State officials have requested employees and resources allocated for the reopening of Astria Regional Medical Center be diverted to help long-term care facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks in other parts of the state.

Dr. Raquel Bono — retired Navy vice admiral and director of the state’s COVID-19 response — and Gov. Jay Inslee said the decision was made after consulting with labor, hospital and local health leaders during field visits over the past two days to Yakima and other communities across Eastern Washington.

Officials said the initial decision to open an alternative care site at Astria Regional was made out of concern that Eastern Washington lacked the capacity of Western Washington and needed more hospital beds.

However, officials said Yakima and the surrounding area have done such a good job building their own capacity, that the resources are not as needed as they initially thought.

“I wanted to be certain that these more rural centers were well prepared for COVID-19,” Bono said in a news release. “Listening to experts on the ground gave me a lot of confidence that they are very well coordinated and prepared.”

Now the concern is directed more toward the state’s long-term care facilities, where the virus spreads quickly among the vulnerable populations and the health care workers entrusted with caring for them.

“It’s essential to shift our resources to these vulnerable populations,” Bono said in the release. “In doing so, we will be able to isolate people who are sick, reduce the general rate of infection, and ultimately reduce the volume of COVID-positive patients requiring hospitalization.”

The hope is that by reducing the rate of infection in these facilities, officials can decrease the amount of COVID-19 patients needing hospitalizations and the amount of deaths, as a large number of the state’s deaths are attributed to older individuals with underlying conditions.

In Yakima County, health officials attribute a third of its cases to long-term care facilities; as of Friday evening, the county had 511 positive patients and 20 deaths related to COVID-19 complications.

While the 100 personnel from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other resources earmarked for the Astria site are sent elsewhere, officials said the state will keep the closed hospital facility on retainer so it can be, “quickly reopened in the event of a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.”

Inslee said the decision was a positive move in the fight against the virus and attributed the slowing of the virus’s spread to the cooperation of communities and businesses across the state with the stay at home order.

“We need to continue to explore a range of options and assess the best use of our alternative care facilities to ensure they are always available where the need is greatest,” Inslee said in the release.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.