Adventist Health shutters financially troubled Washington hospital

Walla Walla General Hospital in Washington has been closed by owner Adventist Health, citing financial challenges and a failed plan to transfer ownership Providence Health & Services.

“We respect the legacy of this hospital, its place in the heart of our community, and the investments we have all made to sustain it for more than a century,” Adventist said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the current volatile healthcare environment, legislative challenges, and consistent low inpatient census have created an unsustainable future for Walla Walla General Hospital. After tireless efforts to reverse the mounting financial challenges the hospital has faced over the last decade, it is with great sadness that we will be closing Walla Walla General Hospital, Adventist Health Home Care related services and our clinics on Monday, July 24.”

The closure wasn’t a surprise after Adventist said it invested $68 million in recent years in a bid to make the hospital financially viable. It had originally planned to integrate the hospital with the nearby Providence St. Mary Medical Center, but Adventist called off the deal in June after “unexpected regulatory challenges.”

In preparation for the closure, Providence Medical Group signed contracts with several Adventist providers. Even an expedited transition to Providence will take time, however, with the group telling patients their physicians won’t be fully integrated into Providence until early September.

“It is our goal to transition the providers into Providence with as little disruption as possible for their patients,” said Timothy Davidson, MD, physician chief executive of Providence Medical Group for Walla Walla.

In the meantime, Walla Walla’s only remaining emergency department will be located at Providence St. Mary. The ED there expects to see a 30 to 40 percent spike in patients almost immediately.

“Every ounce of me is highly confident we’re going to be able to meet the demand,” Alysa Kyle, director of emergency services at St. Mary, told the Walla Walla Union Bulletin.