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AL Tribune: AL residents deserve more answers

Albert Lea Tribune

It has been a month since Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin officials announced plans to transition most inpatient services to Austin.

While we and the community have received some of the answers we were seeking regarding the announcement, more answers are needed.

Mayo officials gave us a few minutes one-on-one before the community forum last month to ask some questions. Though we were grateful for the opportunity to be able to have a conversation, it took a while — over a week to get the appointment — and it was far too short of a period to get all of our questions answered.

When asking why the organization’s 990 forms showed revenue minus expenses in the black, we were told the 990 forms include several categories of non-operating income such as gifts, donations and investment income. The investment income is held in the organization’s cash-on-hand account and is used in case of a catastrophe or government shutdown. Officials said it is standard practice in health care to have a cash reserve to pay salaries and benefits and to buy supplies if cash flow stops. That money is not used when the organization builds its budget each year; officials budget based on the revenue generated from operations.

When taking out that non-operating income, officials stated Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin actually had an operating loss of $4.6 million, or 1.8 percent, in 2015, and a loss of $8.1 million, or 3.3 percent, in 2016.

While this provides some insight, we wish there were more details to share with the community. It’s understandable that this might cost a little in time to collect this information, but we deserve it. Albert Leans deserve more and deserve better.

When asking additional questions about Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin’s finances, what we found disturbing is that officials say they are not able to break down how Albert Lea performed compared to Austin. Even small businesses track customers, let alone a medical giant that no doubt tracks everything about patients to better serve them in the future.

Even if they are nonprofit as they say, somewhere there must exist the breakdown between Albert Lea and Austin — what money was spent and what services were needed. We want to see the breakdown.

Once that comes out, the next step will be translating that.

Financial reports can be hard to understand. We encourage the city manager and other city leaders to help in appointing a committee to understand and report on these financial reports. This committee should consist of at least three local business people, including one CPA.

In addition, we request an audit on the services provided on both the Albert Lea and Austin campuses.

Mayo’s proposal to close the Albert Lea hospital is a major loss to Albert Lea in terms of employment, quality of life, real estate values and civic pride.

Mayo should be open, honest and transparent. If there is nothing to hide, what would the harm be in better enlightening the community?