At least 1,000 unionized nurses, support staff and community leaders have signed a petition to address concerns that Ascension Wisconsin has plans to cut staff and services at St. Francis Hospital in Milwaukee.
Ascension Wisconsin, the state's second largest system, acquired St. Francis Hospital in 2015 as part of its purchase of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, a 14-hospital system.
The unionized employees, represented by the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, have signed the petition as worries mount that Ascension plans to cut staff and services at St. Francis, said Candice Owley, president of the union. The hospital, which staffs 700 physicians, provides cancer care, emergency services and mental healthcare.
Owley said since Ascension took over operations, a significant number of administrative and management leaders have been replaced or let go. About six senior VPs and 10 VPs left Wheaton Franciscan after the acquisition, the BizTimes reported.
There have also been rumors that Ascension plans to outsource its food services. The Wisconsin Federation represents food service, housekeeping and technical workers, Owley said.
“We want a guaranteed commitment that (Ascension) will keep the services and jobs at St. Francis,” Owley said.
In a prepared statement, Bernie Sherry, senior VP of Ascension Health's Wisconsin ministry market, said, “St. Francis Hospital is an important campus to our overall health system and we plan to continue to provide the most appropriate care, close to where people live. As the U.S. healthcare environment continues to evolve, and as we integrate our legacy systems into one Ascension Wisconsin, we will regularly evaluate our care model to make sure it's meeting the needs of the individuals in the communities we serve and providing the most highly trained healthcare professionals.”
Ascension Wisconsin announced plans in May to restructure following its acquisition of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Affinity Health System and Ministry Health Care. The 27-health system has divided the organization into two regions by the northern and southern areas of the state.