George Hinton, chief executive officer of the Milwaukee-based Social Development Commission, writes that Ascension Wisconsin’s plan to cut medical services at St. Joseph’s Hospital will harm people who need health care the most.
As CEO of Milwaukee County’s community action agency, an advocate for people living in poverty, I cannot sit in silence as nonprofit health care systems like Ascension Wisconsin abandon people who need health care the most.
Last week, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article revealed Ascension Wisconsin’s plan to cut critical medical services at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sherman Park. Now, there is additional reason for concern. Ald. Bob Donovan announced that Ascension Wisconsin may downsize services at St. Francis Hospital on the city’s South Side.
This action will hurt people who experience poverty and anyone else looking for health care in the impacted communities.
Ascension Wisconsin’s reduction of medical service will affect all Milwaukee residents. Health care cuts with no collaboration among other health care systems could create a crisis in our community.
If other systems follow Ascension Wisconsin’s lead, restrict access to patients or eliminate beds, we could see patients sitting in hallways, waiting for beds as a worse-case scenario.
We recognize the fact that it is challenging to provide health care for people unable to fully pay for services. However, hospital systems strategically select the communities they serve. Profitable services are often placed in affluent communities where people do have the right insurance to pay for service. In other words, hospitals move where the money is. This flexibility also gives systems the ability to support hospitals in lower-income areas.
There is an obligation to support basic health care needs with inpatient and outpatient services.
Not-for-profit hospital systems are obligated to provide appropriate safety nets for all populations in the community.
This is the true spirit of a not-for-profit organization. They don’t pay taxes.
Every move like this undermines stability in our communities. In addition to a lack of health care, this action frequently comes with job cuts — many are family-sustaining jobs.
All health care systems that make money from our community must think carefully about how they treat those with fewer resources.
Since we don’t have socialized health care in this country, this is everyone’s responsibility.