Children’s Wisconsin announced on Oct. 22 that they would no longer offer primary care services at their clinic in Milwaukee’s Metcalfe Park neighborhood, changing the health care landscape in Wisconsin’s largest city.
“We have determined that the space and size constraints at [Metcalfe Park] do not allow us to consistently deliver the services our patients require,” Children’s Wisconsin spokesperson Ashley Janzen said in a statement to The Daily Cardinal. “We will work with the community and local leaders and organizations to determine the next use of this space to support kids and families.”
This scenario echoes the decision made by Ascension Wisconsin to close down the labor and delivery unit at its St. Francis Hospital in December 2022.
In a statement to the Cardinal, an Ascension Wisconsin spokesperson said “a combination of the loss of our obstetrical providers and low birthing volumes” led to its decision. They said the hospital will still provide delivery and immediate postpartum care through emergency medicine physicians.
What is happening in Metcalfe Park is a microcosm of wider health care access issues facing minority communities across Wisconsin.
In Wisconsin, 31% of all Black residents reported being in fair or poor health while 14% of white residents reported the same, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 1-in-4 Black residents also reported having no usual source of care, compared to 17% of white residents.
Metcalfe Park, an overwhelmingly Black neighborhood in Milwaukee, has a median household income of only $19,458, according to the city of Milwaukee. The 2020 census reported a median household income in Wisconsin of $67,080.
Minority and low-income individuals often suffer from worsened health outcomes due to low nutrition and the prevalence of toxic elements in areas with higher minority populations, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
According to the National Library of Medicine, providers' failure to hire physicians from underrepresented groups is one of the contributing factors to healthcare droughts in predominantly minority communities.
A 2022 report from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services found that Black mothers see pregnancy-related death rates five times higher than those of white mothers. What’s more, Black infants suffer from death rates that are 2.7 times as high as those of white infants.
“We are concerned about access to healthcare for our constituents and families, including our burgeoning Latino/x and immigrant communities,” Common Council President José G. Pérez and Milwaukee Aldermen Scott Spiker, JoCasta Zamarripa and Marina Dimitrijevic said in a statement on the decision. “This decision means that expecting families have to travel further for the care they may need.”
For some, this recent shuttering of services across the state highlights the need for healthcare reform.
Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said in a Twitter post the situation is a stark example of how the market-based model of healthcare in the United States is broken.
“This is just another example of why a Medicare for All type solution is so needed,” Larson said in an email to the Cardinal.
Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, has stated expanding access to healthcare in Wisconsin is a top priority for his administration.