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Mayo Clinic Health System to consolidate inpatient services to Austin

Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin announced Monday it will consolidate most of its inpatient services over time to its Austin campus.

The announcement comes after medical center staff devoted more than a year to an analysis of services provided on both campuses, including a patient-centered evaluation process to understand which services are most frequently used, said Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin.

It also comes as the organization — along with other health care organizations across the country — are facing staffing shortages, rising costs and declining reimbursements for their services, the release stated.

“We must make changes to the way we provide health care in order to be available to our patients and communities in the future,” said Bobbie Gostout, vice president of Mayo Clinic and leader of Mayo Clinic Health System. “It’s no longer feasible to duplicate some of our most complex and expensive health care services in neighboring communities. We are navigating challenging times in health care, so we are taking proactive steps to adjust the services offered on each campus.”

Emergency room, primary and specialty care, pregnancy care, and lab, pharmacy and other services will remain available in both Albert Lea and Austin.

According to the release, the analysis of services at the two locations found that more than 95 percent of services are delivered in the outpatient setting, including emergency room; primary care, including pediatrics and pregnancy care; specialty care; outpatient surgeries and procedures; and laboratory, radiology and pharmacies services.

Fewer than 5 percent of patient visits are for inpatient services, including major surgeries requiring hospitalization, overnight hospitalization and intensive care unit stays for illness and injuries, and childbirth, the analysis found.

“To make the best use of our resources, the 5 percent of care we deliver in the hospital (inpatient) setting will be consolidated on our Austin campus,” Ciota said. “Thankfully, most people may only need these services a few times in the course of a lifetime. When and if they do, top quality hospital and surgical care will still be available close to home, within 30 minutes for most patients.”

A facilities analysis conducted by the hospital system showed that the Austin campus offers the best layout for the expansion of hospital rooms, a larger intensive care unit and room for additional growth.

Albert Lea’s campus will continue to offer primary and specialty care, emergency care, pregnancy care, radiology, lab and pharmacy services. In addition, the Albert Lea campus will house inpatient behavioral health care and addiction services at Fountain Centers.

The inpatient behavioral health unit, also known as the psychiatric services unit, is presently in Austin.

“Bringing these behavioral health services together in one location will create more opportunities for staff collaboration and keep related services located together for the convenience of our patients,” said Mandie Siems, public affairs associate at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea.

Ciota said by adjusting the services across both campuses, Mayo Clinic Health System will be able to offer higher levels of care to patients in larger, state-of-the-art units.

“We’ll be able to invest more in the latest technology and equipment because we won’t be staffing and equipping two identical units in neighboring communities,” he said. “We anticipate higher staff satisfaction as our talented providers, nurses and other staff are able to care for more complex patients and have fewer nights on call.”

The press release did not include a timeframe for the changes, but stated they will take place over time — probably over several years — to allow for further planning and remodeling.

“We are at the very beginning of the implementation process,” Ciota said. “The work we are doing will require change for our staff, patients and community partners, and we realize change is hard for everyone. But these changes are necessary in order to keep health care close to home and available for present and future generations.”

The Minnesota Nurses Association sent out a response to the announcement Monday afternoon, stating the changes could affect hundreds of jobs. The association is reviewing the impact of the announcement on patients and staff.

Hospital administration has not yet confirmed how many employees will be affected.

“We are very concerned about potential layoffs of hundreds of nurses and other staff, which would threaten the quality of care our patients now receive,” said MNA President Mary Turner, a registered nurse. “Nurses will push for changes that protect patients and the people who care for them.”

Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr said though he received an overview of the potential changes at the hospital, he has not been able to explore them in-depth.

“I do know that we can expect Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin to continue to give world-class medical care to our citizens, although it will apparently look different moving forward,” Kehr said.

Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Ryan Nolander said statistics showed that people in Albert Lea are rarely utilizing Albert Lea’s hospital inpatient services.

“This change will affect less than 5 percent of the services that Mayo provides locally, and ER, primary care, specialty care, outpatient surgeries, lab, radiology, pharmacy, etc., will stay the same as they currently are,” Nolander said.

He said he does not think the announcement will have a major effect on residents or businesses looking to move to the community.

“Now Mayo can focus on providing world class service at one location, whether it be hospital inpatient services in Austin or the consolidation of inpatient behavioral and addiction services in Albert Lea,” Nolander said.