Ascension Wisconsin Halts Plan to Cut Services at St. Joseph's Hospital

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Washington, April 18, 2018 | comments

Milwaukee, WI - In response to Ascension Wisconsin’s decision to halt their plan to drastically cut services at St. Joseph's Hospital in Milwaukee, Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04) released the following statement.

“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.”

The congresswoman’s letter to Ascension is available here and below.

April 17, 2018

Mr. Bernie Sherry
Senior Vice President
Ascension Healthcare
400 W River Woods Pkwy
Glendale, WI 53212-1060

Dear Mr. Sherry,

I am writing to express my deep concern about Ascension’s plans to cut services at St. Joseph’s Hospital campus. I encourage Ascension to undertake a comprehensive review of the concerns I enumerate below and to delay discontinuation of services until such review is completed.

St. Joseph’s Hospital primarily serves Medicare and Medicaid patients, with roughly 51 percent of the hospital’s patients covered by Medicaid, and operates in an area of Milwaukee with widespread health disparities. St. Joseph’s is also one of the busiest Emergency Department’s (E.D.) in the state.  In Fiscal Year 2017, St. Joseph’s performed 2,712 surgeries, one of the services slated to be cut. It is essential that people in this community have access to a hospital that provides a full range of services, including inpatient care, which may be necessary after admittance to the E.D., surgery, etc. 

I have many concerns about this plan not being in the best interest of my constituents and their health. I request Ascension address the following:

  1. How will the E.D. at St. Joseph’s Hospital function if there is no access to inpatient care?
  2. What will be the protocol for transferring patients to other providers to ensure that they receive the care they need, especially when other providers are at capacity?
  3. What will be the protocol for payment of transferring patients to other facilities? Specifically, please detail the steps Ascension will take to ensure that patients are not saddled with this additional and extensive monetary burden.
  4. How did Ascension determine which services were essential and which would not continue to be offered?  It is notable that the services Ascension plans to continue include some of the most profitable services, such as E.D., obstetrics, perinatal care, and primary care.
  5. The involvement of the community is a crucial element of this decision-making process, and is one that appears to be missing in Ascension’s plan. Has Ascension surveyed the community and community stakeholders as part of the process to determine which services to jettison?
  6. Ascension has stated that patients may utilize other Ascension campuses for the services it plans to cut, specifically Elmbrook or Columbia St. Mary’s.  However, Elmbrook has no bus route and Columbia St. Mary’s is 5.6 miles from the St. Joseph’s campus.  What steps will Ascension take to ensure that patients have access to transportation to alternate facilities?
  7. There have been reports concerning the possible discontinuation of services at Ascension’s St. Francis campus. Is Ascension considering cutting services at St. Francis Hospital next?
  8. Has Governor Scott Walker’s decision to reject federal Medicaid Expansion funding affected Ascension’s decision to terminate services? Would additional Medicaid funds have made a difference in Ascension’s financial position at St. Joseph’s Hospital?

 I am extremely concerned about Ascension’s proposal because of its potential negative effect on the health and well-being of my constituents. St. Joseph’s Hospital currently serves many of my most vulnerable constituents and this cut in services would force them to travel farther to use different hospitals, which are already at capacity. In an emergency, time is of the essence. There may not be time for a patient to be driven to another hospital that is farther away without suffering complications. Patients admitted to the E.D. may not be stable enough for transport to another facility for inpatient care. My constituents may delay treatment because they do not have transportation.  I fear we may see patients waiting on gurneys in the hallways, as we did prior to hospitals ending ambulance diversions.

I ask that you take a thorough review of the matters detailed above and delay any discontinuation of services at St. Joseph’s Hospital until a thorough review can be completed.  I hope you share my desire to provide the best possible service to all patients.  I look forward to your response.



Gwen Moore
Member of Congress

cc:  Ms. Joy Tapper, Milwaukee Health Care Partnership Executive Director

       Mr. Eric Borgerding, Wisconsin Hospital Association President & CEO

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