Ascension Wisconsin: ‘We’ve decided to pause our plan to reconfigure medical services’ at St. Joseph Hospital

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St. Joseph Hospital

MILWAUKEE — Ascension Wisconsin has “decided to pause our plan to reconfigure medical services from St. Joe’s to Columbia St. Mary’s Milwaukee” after recently announcing planned changes. This, after “feedback” from concerned city leaders.

Ascension officials earlier this month said they would 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.

Hospital officials said they were 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.

“Any time you see fewer health care beds, it’s going to have an impact,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said, expressing concern. “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 neighborhood.”

“When they’re not there, who’s going to fill that gap?” said Alderman Bob Donovan. “They’re nonprofit organizations, and yet what is fueling every decision they make is the bottom line — is the money. Shame on them.”

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The hospital VP said they’re not cutting services, but reshaping what is provided.

On Wednesday, April 18, Bernie Sherry, senior VP, Ascension Healthcare, Ministry Market Executive, Ascension Wisconsin issued this statement:

“Over the last two weeks, we’ve been meeting with city leaders and residents and we’ve had great dialogue about Ascension St. Joseph Hospital. We’ve heard how important Ascension is to Milwaukee in providing healthcare to our most vulnerable neighbors. That is, and always has been, our Mission. It is work we are privileged to do.

Based on the feedback we’ve received from the mayor, Common Council members, community leaders and others, we have decided to pause our plan to reconfigure medical services from St. Joe’s to Columbia St. Mary’s Milwaukee as we continue to engage stakeholders on transforming healthcare in Milwaukee. We’re gratified that the Common Council recognizes our role as critical, frontline care institutions. With three city hospitals – Ascension St. Joseph, Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Milwaukee and Ascension St. Francis – we are Milwaukee’s safety net hospital system. We provide 100% access, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. We’re proud of that and we remain committed to that. We have served Milwaukee for over a century and we look forward to providing personalized, compassionate care for many generations to come.”

Congresswoman Gwen Moore released this statement after Ascension’s announcement that they’ll pause the plan to reconfigure services at St. Joseph Hospital:

“I am relieved to hear that Ascension Wisconsin has responded to public outcry and put their harmful plan to cut essential services at St. Joseph’s Hospital on hold. St. Joseph’s is a vital safety net hospital that primarily serves Medicare and Medicaid patients and operates in an underserved Milwaukee community. Reducing services would threaten the well-being of my constituents by forcing them to travel to distant hospitals that are already struggling to meet existing demand.

Since Ascension’s announcement, I have worked tirelessly with city leaders calling on Ascension to put an end to their planned service reduction. Yesterday, I sent a letter to Ascension urging them to conduct a thorough review of the impact a reduction of services would have on my constituents. I am encouraged to learn that they have taken my concerns into consideration and suspended their plan. As Ascension determines how they will move forward, I will continue to monitor their actions closely and work to ensure that Milwaukee residents have access to the medical services they need.”

Alderman Khalif Rainey, who sponsored legislation approved by the Common Council to urge Ascension Wisconsin to reconsider its plans issued this statement:

“I am heartened by this pause on the plans to downsize services at St. Joseph – it shows Ascension’s willingness to listen and engage the Common Council, the mayor and the community. I look forward to further discussions and finding ways to keep the vital services in place at St. Joseph and the other Ascension facilities in Milwaukee.”

Alderman Michael Murphy issued this statement:

“I commend Ascension for this latest development to pause reduction of services. This shows what an engaged community and its leaders can do when unified on an important issue. I would hope the company continues to listen to community input until a final decision on services is reached.”

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