Changes coming soon to Aurora Sinai Medical Center

MILWAUKEE -- Two Milwaukee hospitals, Aurora and Wheaton-Franciscan, are going head-to-head regarding emergency care for Milwaukee's underserved. Aurora Health Care plans to make some changes to Sinai Medical Center. It's those "unknown changes" that are causing the controversy.

Sinai Medical Center has been at its location in some form for 100 years, but there are questions regarding what role it will play in the coming years. Aurora Health Care spokesman Michael Brophy says the hospital lost $20 million last year, and is on track to lose $30 million this year, if no changes are made.

The buzz in the community is that Aurora will close Sinai's emergency operations, taking away services Milwaukee's underserved and indigent patients depend on. Brophy says competitor Wheaton-Franciscan is fueling the fears with city and state leaders.

Deb Standridge is with Wheaton-Franciscan St. Joseph Hospital, which serves the same population as Sinai. "We serve over 80,000 people, and we're basically at full capacity right now. This is a community health issue. There are thousands of patients who rely on both hospitals for care, and we need to address what the concerns of the community are going to be," Standridge said.

Brophy accuses Wheaton-Franciscan of inflaming the healthcare discussion, despite the fact that Wheaton-Franciscan closed St. Michael's central city hospital in 2006, which affected Sinai. "We've always had a strong commitment to the community through Sinai and other services that we offer to the underserved, and people should respect that the model we're going to come up with is going to do that in the future," Brophy said.

Aurora says Sinai isn't going away, but we'll have to wait 60 days to know exactly what type of facility it will be. That's when the plan will be unveiled. Brophy says any discussion before then, is just rumor.