YAKIMA, Wash. — Astria Sunnyside Hospital will no longer be doing invasive or non-invasive heart procedures or interventional cardiology services starting Dec. 16, but Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital will.
Astria Health officials announced the change shortly before Thanksgiving, citing staffing challenges and the rising cost of supplies and labor as the reason they would no longer be offering those services at its Sunnyside hospital or clinics.
Instead, patients in the Lower Valley who need access to services like elective percutaneous coronary interventions (PCIs), cardiac catheterization, angioplasty, stent placement or coronary angiography will be referred to doctors in Yakima or the Tri-Cities.
There are currently no hospitals in Yakima County that perform open heart surgery. Patients requiring open heart surgery are usually referred to cardiac surgical programs in Seattle, Spokane, Portland or the Tri-Cities.
Dr. Ashok Kumar, the medical director of Memorial Heart, Lung and Vascular Clinic, said they are accepting new patients to the cardiology program and will be able to provide heart procedures for those who need them.
“There may be some delay in getting an appointment if there’s a backlog to some degree periodically, seasonally, but everyone that needs to see a cardiologist in Yakima County, we will see,” Kumar said. “We’re the principal cardiology provider for the Central Washington area.”
That’s been the case since Astria Regional Medical Center closed in early 2020 and its patients had to seek services at other hospitals, many of which made their way to YVMH.
YVMH has expanded its cardiology program over the past two years, they’ve hired two additional interventional cardiologists, an electrophysiologist who is an expert on rhythm problems and a new general cardiologist.
“We’ve also tried our best to add echo technicians who can improve access to ultrasound services for the heart, as well,” Kumar said. “We’ve hired vascular ultrasound technicians who can provide that service as well.”
Kumar said they’re also doing their best to continue to hire more people on the outpatient clinic side of things so they can ramp up access for patients who need clinic visits and referrals.
They have an echo lab to provide ultrasound imaging of the heart, a vascular ultrasound department to look at blood vessels, a cardiac cath lab in the hospital for stent procedures.
“I do not think that it is going to be a significant logistical challenge to accept patients from Astria cardiology,” Kumar said. “I think we have plenty of resources here to to deal with that.”
Kumar said while the hospital has faced the same challenges with inflation and staffing concerns as other hospitals across the country, their cardiology program is doing well and there are plans in the works to expand it.
“We feel very well supported by the hospital system in terms of their resource allocation to both maintain and expand cardiac services,” Kumar said. “At no point have we ever been told by the hospital system that we need to cut back on any services in order to save costs.”
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