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Meeting planned for next Thursday to discuss Mayo transition

ALBERT LEA — A public meeting is planned next Thursday in the Albert Lea High School auditorium to discuss the recent announcement by Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin to transition most inpatient services to its Austin campus.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said during a council study session Thursday that he expects local Mayo public relations staff to attend the event, and Mayo Clinic officials in Rochester have also been invited.

A time for the meeting has not been announced. The possibility of Mayo Clinic officials submitting written answers to constituents if they are not able to attend the meeting was also discussed Thursday by the council.

Adams said the event is meant to be educational and be presented in a question-and-answer format so the public can have their questions answered. He said a community listening session or rally could take place even if Mayo officials do not attend the meeting.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said 6th Ward Councilor Al “Minnow” Brooks, adding it would benefit the community if Mayo Clinic officials in Rochester attended the event.

City officials have informed Mayo officials that they are in the preliminary stage of exploring local hospitals for services, such as Mercy Medical Center, Sanford Health, Allina North, UnitedHealth and HealthPartners, Adams said.

“We just want to be prepared to explore and learn more from the industry if this kind of hospital closure makes sense for a community of our size, and to kind of help prompt some initial feedback from those entities on what possibilities there might be if these services … are going to close,” he said.

A private meeting with a group of residents was held Thursday morning in Albert Lea to discuss the transition.

Over the next three years, the health system will move overnight hospitalization and intensive care unit stays, childbirths and major surgeries regarding hospitalization to the Austin campus.

Both locations will continue to provide emergency room, primary and specialty care, pregnancy care, and lab, pharmacy and other services. In addition, Albert Lea will house the inpatient behavioral health care and addiction services, which Mayo leaders said would complement each other.

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker said he has heard from constituents who have felt bullied during the transition process, and he believes it would be beneficial to them to have their questions answered during the community meeting. He said constituents want to know elected officials show support for them by being by their side during the transition process.

First Ward Councilor Rich Murray said he wants to know the economic impact the transition will have, and he thinks Mayo officials need to be at the meeting to answer questions.

“We need to have those answers,” he said.

Fifth Ward Councilor Robert Rasmussen questioned if the recent beginning of construction of a new Gold Cross Ambulance building is being done in anticipation of sending patients to Austin. CEO Mark Cioti, when asked that question by the media during the initial news conference a week ago, said Mayo was aware of the building, but one plan had nothing to do with the other.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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