Milwaukee St. Francis Hospital labor/delivery to close, prompting protests

The labor and delivery unit at S. Francis Hospital is set to accept its last patients Wednesday, Dec. 21. It was the only hospital where you could have a child on Milwaukee's south side.

Wednesday is the last day anyone will be admitted to the St. Francis Hospital labor and delivery unit. That way, the last discharge can be Friday, closing the unit in time for Christmas.

A group of health care workers and nurses is hoping to save the labor and delivery unit at St. Francis. They held a press conference and then marched around City Hall Tuesday evening. 

"Closing St. Francis basically gives no labor and delivery to the south side of Milwaukee at all," said Connie Smith, Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.

Connie Smith also works at St. Francis. She said staff was only notified Friday, Dec. 16 of Ascension's plans to close the unit before Christmas. 

In a statement, an Ascension spokeswoman told FOX6 they are transitioning the services to the St. Mary's and the St. Joseph campuses, saying in part: "This consolidation ensures access to the most comprehensive labor, delivery and postpartum services to all Ascension Wisconsin moms and babies."

St. Mary's and St. Joe's are both between a 15- and 20-minute drive from St. Francis, depending on traffic. Smith said that's too much time.

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"Somebody in labor could really deliver in a car in the winter if they’re in active labor and trying to get to a facility," said Smith.

Smith said the decision will also cut about 20 union jobs. 

Activists joined the march Tuesday, worried this change will disproportionately impact minorities on the south side.

"It’s going to hit the most vulnerable populations of Milwaukee," said Alan Chavoya, Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression. 

Ascension statement

"Ascension St. Francis Hospital will be partnering with Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee and Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital - St. Joseph Campus to transition its labor and delivery service to those sites of care. The last day for admission to Ascension St. Francis Labor and Delivery unit will be December 21, 2022, and the last planned discharge will be December 23, 2022. Labor and Delivery Unit associates will provide additional maternal and fetal expertise in the Ascension St. Francis Emergency Room through January 7, 2023, to ensure a smooth transition. 

Under this new arrangement, parents-to-be and babies will have access to a high level of infant and obstetrical care, including maternal-fetal medicine and neonatal specialty care, a level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), 2

/7 obstetric emergency care, midwifery services and more. This consolidation ensures access to the most comprehensive labor, delivery and postpartum services to all Ascension Wisconsin moms and babies.

Birthing services leaders will work hand-in-hand with obstetricians and parents-to-be to ensure a seamless transition of care. Ascension St. Francis Hospital will continue to provide gynecologic, prenatal and postpartum care. 

Ascension Wisconsin is committed to supporting Ascension St. Francis associates through this transition. Plans are in place to work with impacted associates to determine potential opportunities for transitioning to open positions at other Ascension Wisconsin facilities. 

Ascension Wisconsin remains committed to providing compassionate, personalized, high-quality care, and this change ensures that moms, babies and all our patients will receive the care they need."