MILWAUKEE -- City leaders are expressing concern about the inner city population and its access to healthcare after news that St. Joseph Hospital is altering some services that it currently provides.
"Any time you see fewer health care beds, it's going to have an impact," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Ascension Wisconsin will keep services at St. Joseph Hospital that they say are needed and used the most, like emergency care, women's health, OBGYN care and the NICU. If someone comes in with something they cannot care for, such as a specialty surgery, they will be transferred to one of Ascension's other five hospitals.
Mayor Barrett said he's had ongoing conversations with the network.
"I think it's going to be incumbent upon them and other health care providers to make sure that these people are not left behind because we do see a lot of hospital construction, but not a lot of hospital construction in low-income neighborhoods," said Barrett.
Hospital officials said they're reviewing data across the entire system to determine which services are utilized and most necessary. Other reports detail a trend nationally that hospitals are moving out of inner cities.
"When they're not there, who's going to fill that gap?" said Alderman Bob Donovan.
Alderman Donovan said it's all about money.
"They're nonprofit organizations, and yet what is fueling every decision they make is the bottom line -- is the money. Shame on them," said Donovan.
The hospital VP said they're not cutting services, but reshaping what is provided:
“Ascension St. Joseph is committed to maintaining the emergency department, OB/GYN and our Women’s Health Department, our NICU, observation beds and to growing our primary care clinic. This program of services represents a $150 million annual commitment. At the same time, our vision is to transform the St. Joe’s campus into an urban health village that brings together partners to address social and community needs and spark economic investment in the Sherman Park neighborhood. We invite the public to talk with us to shape this innovative approach to community health and wellness together.”
Donovan said he doesn't buy it.
"Where are those individuals going to go for the services they desperately need? That's what concerns me and concerns every Milwaukeean," said Alderman Donovan.
Alderman Khalif Rainey is working with the Ascension Network to facilitate a town hall meeting on this issue.