Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ascension Wisconsin Downsizing Services In St. Joseph Hospital In Sherman Park Area Due To Profit Losses

Several local hospitals located in the Sherman Park area and the Southside of Milwaukee will be downsized of primary health care services and will no longer provide surgical and other medical services, according to members of the Milwaukee Common Council.

By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.

April 12, 2018

Milwaukee, WI - On Thursday, members of the Milwaukee Common Council reported during a press conference that hospital services in the African-American and predominantly Latino community area will see a reduction of primary healthcare at the St. Joseph Hospital in the Sherman Park area and gradually at the St. Francis Hospital. Ascension Wisconsin, which is composed of a hospital system in providing healthcare services, seems to operate for profit when it pays no taxes as a non-profit operation announced that it will downsize primary healthcare medical and surgical services at the St. Joseph Hospital and is expected to gradually reduced services as well at the St.Francis Hospital in the Southside. The Ascension Wisconsin decision was made before getting community input or notifying the Milwaukee Common Council, according to Alderman Bob Donovan. Donovan says, their decision was made simply because they are not making profits and that Ascension has not confirmed whether St. Francis Hospital will be targeted next or not for medical and surgical downsizing.
The downsizing of health services at St. Joseph Hospital will no doubt have a devastating affect on the low income area for services to a population already suffering from inadequate healthcare insurance coverage due to TrumpCare, which circumvented ObamaCare for the low income population.
Ald. Donovan also announced that he will ask legislators in the State of Wisconsin to create a Statewide Medical Review Board to review and approve all proposed hospital closures and downsizing.
Alderman Tony Zielinski says, "... Ascension is exacerbating the health care disparity problem in Milwaukee, where there is already insufficient delivery of health care services in neighborhoods where people of color reside."  Ald. Zielinski believes Ascencion's decision could very well be driven by the discrimination factor to cut healthcare services in low income populations of color where profits are minimal, but Ascension operates as a non-profit corporation and is tax exempt.
According to Ald. Donovan, in 2015, Ascension Wisconsin made nearly $205M profit and its CEO, Robert J. Henkel made nearly $8.3M in salary, but retired in July 2017, which executives at Ascension today are highly paid.
In a recent letter to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Ald. Donovan who is the Chair of the Public Safety and Heath Committee  wrote, "Ascension Wisconsin's recent announcement that it will reduce the footprint of the St. Joseph Hospital campus from its current 1 million square feet to a mere 300,000 – along with significant cuts in needed services -- could hardly come at a more difficult time for the most vulnerable members of our community. Recently, Health Commissioner McManus shared new and troubling information with the Public Safety and Health Committee about the HIV/STD cluster discovered only a few months ago. The City continues to search for answers to deal with the lead contaminating the homes of too many. And the uncertainty relating to insurance plans purchased under the Affordable Care Act has vanished from the headlines, but is a matter of great concern for those involved.
"In all this, the collapse of St. Joseph's is about much more than the loss of a neighborhood institution around which so many have fond memories. It is ultimately about notionally non-profit institutions seeming to act entirely with an eye towards the bottom line. Ascension Wisconsin is a business. Everyone understands this. But the non-profit status of institutions like St. Joseph could reasonably be construed to confer an obligation to act at least occasionally in the public interest. And Ascension/St. Joseph is not alone. Other City hospitals have either closed or cut back significantly on their services as well."
The City of Milwaukee has seen the closure of multiple hospitals in the city since the 1970's.

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