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Protest planned after St. Francis Hospital ends labor and delivery services

The Wisconsin Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals is hosting Wednesday's demonstration
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Posted at 11:11 AM, Jan 04, 2023

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — St. Francis Hospital shut down the labor and delivery unit on December 23 and it is leading healthcare workers to organize a protest set for today.

We saw dozens of healthcare workers protest ahead of this closure and later today another demonstration is being planned. The Wisconsin Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals is hosting Wednesday's demonstration.

According to a news release from the union, "Ascension chose not to gather input from patients, staff, or the community we serve before making the decision to eliminate this crucial service and dozens of jobs."

The release noted that St. Francis was the only labor and delivery option on Milwaukee's south side, calling it a vital service.

Previous coverage:

A statement TMJ4 received from an Ascension Wisconsin spokesperson sidestepped the reasons as to why the labor and delivery unit was closed.

Instead, it said, "this consolidation ensures access to the most comprehensive labor, delivery, and postpartum services to all Ascension Wisconsin moms and babies."

But others, including some city council members, argue that the closure will make it harder for people of color to get the care they need including the Latin x and immigrant communities.

As the hospital moves forward with this closure, city leaders and healthcare workers say it's critical to continue to fight to keep these vital services open.

Read Ascension Wisconsin's full statement below:

Ascension St. Francis Hospital is no longer able to provide birthing services due to a combination of the loss of our obstetrical providers and low birthing volumes. While we have had two providers delivering babies at Ascension St. Francis, one physician recently departed our system and the other announced retirement effective at the end of December 2022.

In addition, both nationally and locally, birth rates are down. Nationally, birth rates are projected to decline 17 percent by 2024 and 19.6 percent by 2026. Locally, this trend mirrors national statistics. Recent birth volumes across Ascension Wisconsin’s three Milwaukee hospitals have been declining over time, with Ascension St. Francis experiencing fewer than one birth(s) per day (352 births) in FY22.

As birth rates continue to decline and result in lower hospital volumes, this has a longer term impact on providers maintaining their competencies. The more a provider uses their skills, the more proficient they become. As a result, volumes are essential to maintaining high quality clinical skills. This was a critical consideration in the clinical decision to consolidate Ascension St. Francis’ labor and delivery services low volume program into fewer regionalized, higher volume programs.

Additionally, neonatal transfers are considered a severe, unexpected newborn complication and can impose a significant burden on families. By consolidating inpatient OB services to facilities with higher levels of neonatal care, we decrease the risk of neonatal transfers.

We remain committed to providing compassionate, personalized, high-quality care, and are confident that this change ensures that moms, babies and all our patients will receive the care they need.

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