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For Immediate Release: December 20, 2022

Statement by BCDI-Milwaukee Policy Director Kisha Shanks on the closure of Milwaukee Ascension St. Francis Hospital Labor and Delivery Unit

On December 16, 2022, Ascension announced its decision to close the labor and delivery unit at St. Francis hospital, located on Milwaukee’s South Side, effective December 23, 2022, with its last admission being December 21, 2022.

The decision to cease all labor and delivery services at St. Francis is not only irresponsible but also criminal. This closure is yet another barrier for Black, Latino/x, and immigrant populations to access quality health care. Milwaukee leads the nation in Infant and Maternal mortality amongst Black and Brown families. As of 2020, approximately 10 Black babies die within the first year per 1000 births. According to the 2022 March of Dimes Report Card, the preterm birth rate for Black women in Wisconsin is 68% higher than all other women. That said, the decision to close the only labor and delivery unit in an already underserved and underfunded community will have an adverse domino effect that will continue to undermine all efforts to building a safe, healthy and thriving community for all. There will be generational impact, as we are already seeing the effects of similar decisions made in the past. Rerouting services to hospitals over 20 minutes away only exacerbates an already existing crisis in maternal and child health. In addition to diminishing access to care, the decision to close adds to the economic instability of the community as there will be inevitable job loss. Systemically speaking, this decision is violent as it prioritizes profits over people. Instead of consolidating care under the guise of providing higher quality care, Ascension should instead focus its efforts on increasing capacity and improving the quality of care in an already existing location.

A community cannot thrive in the absence of access to safe and equitable healthcare, housing, water, education and economic opportunity. We talk a lot about racism but rarely do we mention the systemic racism that propels it. Ascension’s decision to close the St. Francis L&D unit is merely medical redlining by another name. Enough is enough.

As the only organization in the state of Wisconsin that champions exclusively for Black children and families, BCDI-Milwaukee remains committed to improving outcomes through advocacy and education. We will continue to work with families and community stakeholders to elevate their voices and highlight their needs in spaces they might not otherwise have access to. We will continue to educate ourselves and others about the psychosocial and socioeconomic implications of public health. Most importantly, we stand ready to work with local and state organizations, elected officials, and anyone else who recognizes the need for systems change. It can no longer be top-down. It must be bottom-up.

Please contact BCDI-Milwaukee Policy Director, Kisha Shanks (414.759.5126 for questions or media requests.

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