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Mayo Clinic to overhaul governance models for facilities

ROCHESTER — The Mayo Clinic is overhauling the way it governs its facilities across southeast Minnesota.

That the new model would create a regional board working with local boards in Austin, Albert Lea, Rochester, Lake City, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Owatonna and Faribault.

The overhaul is a departure from the current model that has each host city set up its own board to discuss local issues.

Former Lake City attorney Phil Gartner, who helped negotiate a 30-year contract that set up the local governance board with Mayo Clinic, says he is concerned that the city will lose influence and authority under a region governance model.

“That (local governance board) was one of the things we wanted very clearly to obtain (in 1998), ensuring some participation from the community was required,” Gartner said. “That was a very, very important point that was negotiated at great length with the folks out of Rochester. The language is very clear and unique.”

Gartner says he believes the Mayo Clinic is trying to get out of its contract with the city. Mayo officials deny the claim.

Lake City Council member Russell Boe said, “In this case, what’s best for Lake City isn’t what’s best for Mayo Clinic. I think it’s sort of a logical conclusion, but Lake City has some protections now.”

The Lake City board has five Mayo Clinic representatives and four Lake City representatives, including Mayor Joel Beckman, which means two community members would have to support the changes for them to take effect.

Dr. Tom Witt, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Lake City, and Red Wing, said the system has no plan to end its affiliation agreement with Lake City.

As part of the contract, Mayo Clinic agreed to purchase Lake City’s existing hospital for $7 million. Mayo still owes the city about $3 million, which is scheduled to be paid over the remaining 12 years of the contract.