Ascension Health hospital workers circulate petition over possible layoffs

The union that represents workers at Milwaukee-based Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – St. Francis is circulating a petition over concerns of possible layoffs and cutbacks at the facility, according to a Milwaukee Business Journal report.

The Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, which represents about 1,000 employees at St. Francis, including nurses and service workers, has collected roughly 1,000 signatures for the petition, union president Candice Owley told the publication.

The petition expresses the union's concerns to the hospital's owner, St. Louis-based Ascension Health. Specifically, the petition urges Ascension Health not to cut the hospital's services or staff, decrease pension or other benefits and outsource jobs, according to the article.

The concerns come as Ascension Wisconsin, part of Ascension Health, continues to integrate corporate and operating structures of four health systems following its acquisition of Glendale, Wis.-based Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare. Ascension Wisconsin acquired Wheaton's Southeast Wisconsin operations and related corporate offices last March. Ascension Health also owns Milwaukee-based Columbia St. Mary's and Ministry Health Care, and Affinity Health System in Appleton, Wis.  

The number of jobs affected by these integration efforts has yet to be disclosed.

Vince Gallucci, chief marketing and communications officer for Ascension Wisconsin, previously declined to confirm numbers or locations for job cuts, telling the Milwaukee Business Journal, "I'm not going to share a detailed number."

He didn't directly address the union's concerns in an email to the Milwaukee Business Journal Tuesday, except to say that Ascension "is dedicated to providing compassionate, personalized care to all with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable."

"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," Mr. Gallucci wrote.


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