- Ascension has pumped the brakes on its plan to shutter Milwaukee-based Wheaton Franciscan-St. Joseph Hospital's medical and surgical units after blowback from city officials, Becker's Hospital Review reported.
- The massive health system announced earlier this month that the hospital, which serves low-income patients, would continue to provide emergency room services, obstetric care and primary care services. But the pledge did not appease city leaders, who argued the five-mile trip to Ascension's Columbia St. Mary's Hospital would adversely impact healthcare for the poor.
- A recent video obtained by Modern Healthcare showed Ascension CEO Anthony Tersigni foreshadowing Ascension's plan to step away from its focus on hospitals to emphasize outpatient access points and telemedicine.
The move by Ascension demonstrates the difficulty hospital systems face in restructuring as they adjust to lower inpatient reimbursement.
The pause on its plan to shrink services at Franciscan-St. Joseph Hospital came after Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan requested the health system wait a year before consolidating services to engage with the community and determine what services could be kept at the hospital.
The city leader put the health system on notice, saying he instructed the city attorney to ensure Ascension's plan would be in compliance with state and federal laws, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
Various health systems ranging from Mayo Clinic to Scripts Health have announced plans to consolidate services. For Mayo in particular, public response has been negative. Mayo's plan to consolidate two hospital campuses in Minnesota has been met with numerous protests from community members and questions from local officials.
Ascension itself appears to be moving away from efforts to grow into an even-larger health system.
A rumored merger between Ascension and Providence St. Joseph was put on ice in March. The now-defunct deal would have created the largest hospital operator in the country, with 191 hospitals in 27 states.
Ascension is also selling off parts of its hospital business. It signed a letter of intent in March to sell Connecticut-based St. Vincent’s Medical Center to Hartford HealthCare.