Ascension St. Joe’s Won’t Sign Agreement
Still tension between hospital and area residents over potential cuts in service.
1. St. Joseph Accountability Coalition releases results from community survey.
The coalition surveyed almost 600 people from June 18 to Sept. 18 and found residents top concerns included an urgent care center in the St. Joe’s service area, healthcare without racial bias and more mental health, chemical dependency and wraparound services.
The coalition had set a goal of getting 1,000 respondents.
The most important community relations initiative that St. Joseph could pursue, according to 49.8% of respondents, is to “listen to, engage with, and respect community voices.”
2. Tensions between some community members and Ascension Wisconsin leadership continue.
The coalition asked Ascension’s Reggie Newson, chief advocacy officer; Nicole Gladney, director of community services; and Kevin Kluesner, chief administrative officer, to come to a town hall-style meeting last month to hear the survey results. Ascension was not invited to present information.
Newson, Gladney and Kluesner could have engaged with attendees after the presentation, coalition member Markasa Tucker said.
Newson said he and his colleagues declined to attend because they interpreted the invitation to mean they would not be permitted to speak at all.
He said over the last 18 months, Ascension has surveyed and listened to hundreds of residents and community organizations in structured conversations. Ascension has never asked coalition members not to speak at a meeting, he said.
The coalition has asked Ascension to commit to negotiating a Community Benefits Agreement for the future of St. Joe’s.
In a statement, an Ascension spokesperson responded:
“Community Benefits Agreements are between community groups and real estate developers. They identify a range of community benefits the developer agrees to provide as part of the development project in cases where the developer is seeking the community’s support of the project and may receive tax incentives or public funding to subsidize the project. These types of agreements do not apply to health systems.”
4. Ascension says it’s responding to community concerns.
Newson said Ascension St. Joseph is listening to the coalition and recently started providing many of the services the community is asking for.
He gave examples:
- The opening of a new midwifery clinic with two staff midwives
- A national Ascension maternal health initiative that is set to begin
- The opening this month of a heart and vascular center that will focus on prevention and treatment services
- The completion of a full-day design charrette process for campus improvements, including ideas about potential affordable housing and other social determinants of health