Milwaukee, WI: Healthcare workers at Saint Francis Hospital blast unsafe conditions, corporate greed
Milwaukee, WI – On November 10, the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals – AFT Local 5000 held a press conference to call attention to the unsafe working conditions in hospitals in the context of what public health experts are calling a tridemic – of the Flu, COVID-19 and RSV this winter season.
Focus was given to Ascension, the second largest healthcare corporation in the U.S. WFNHP represents workers at the Ascension hospital Saint Francis where workers have been engaged in multiple fights with management that have been escalating over the past year, particularly over staffing issues.
Jamie Lucas, executive director of WHNHP said, “Ascension has been characterized as ‘essentially a hedge fund that also happens to own and operate hospitals’ due to their involvement and investments in Wall Street and other profit-seeking ventures. They are merely one of the many large not-for-profits that now resemble ‘Fortune 500 companies instead of the charities they were often built as.’ It is crucial to understand their immense wealth as we examine how they run our hospital and interact with our community.”
Ascension puts their record profits into CEO and administration salaries while reducing services and short staffing their facilities, leaving staff and patients to suffer the consequences.
“We fear necessary care is being delayed due to this staffing crisis that corporate healthcare management created by not hiring enough staff or replacing staff when they quit. At Saint Francis, we have reduced our bed capacity so MDs can’t place patients in our hospital, and then management says there aren’t enough patients to justify hiring staff. They are basically stuck in a cycle, reducing services and then saying that we don’t have enough ‘productivity’ to justify bringing us back to full capacity, similar to when politicians defund our schools and social services and then say they’re not running efficiently as justification to further cut the services.”
Alan Chavoya shared his personal experience of being a patient at Saint Francis and how what’s happening at the hospital is impacting the surrounding community. “When greedy corporations like Ascension Healthcare prioritize profits over everything else, what follows is a series of terrible consequences for the healthcare workers and the patients they take care of.”
Chavoya continued, “Ascension Healthcare is taking their workers for granted. They are overworking them. They are not supporting them. They are ignoring the terrible conditions that their policies and practices have created, and they are not taking responsibility. Ascension Healthcare only cares for their profits. These are the healthcare workers who have risked their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic to care for the people of Milwaukee. Instead of being treated like the heroes they are, Ascension Healthcare is abusing them. So, I say shame on Ascension Healthcare.”
Healthcare is one of the largest sectors of the economy and corporations are continually consolidating their power and profit by creating larger and larger health systems. Administrators of hospitals view patients simply as numbers in their mission to have higher productivity and profit to bolster their own salaries while cutting frontline staff. Ascension is one of the worst offenders, with their CEO making about $13 million in annual compensation, according to the most recent public records.
The patients are truly the ones who suffer, as they are in incredibly vulnerable positions while they are admitted inpatient in the hospital. It is incomprehensible to healthcare workers how these corporations can put their profit and greed above the needs of their patients and those who care for them.
The divide will continue to grow between workers and the patients they care for versus the greedy CEOs and administrators. Workers in healthcare must organize and fight back for the future of the industry and the health and safety of the patients.