Mayo, Albert Lea agree on panel; Gov. weighs in on hospital cuts, Clinic lists investments

Published 8:12 am Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The city of Albert Lea and Mayo Clinic Health System leaders announced Monday the formation of a community stakeholder panel to focus on issues surrounding the two-way transition of inpatient services between the Albert Lea and Austin campuses of Mayo Clinic Health System.

Meetings will be ongoing over the next several months to discuss the transition, address outstanding concerns from the community, and oversee completion of an Economic Impact Analysis (EIA), expected to be finished in the near future.

The panel includes leadership representatives from Albert Lea, Freeborn County, and Mayo Clinic Health System, according to a news statement released by Mayo on Monday.

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The Mayo announcement came just a few minutes after a statement was released by Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith about their “serious concerns about Mayo Clinic’s decision to reduce services at their Albert Lea hospital, and how this decision will impact the community.”

“Mayo Clinic owes it to the Albert Lea community, and any community it serves, to engage the public in an open discussion about the impact of its business decisions on people. Minnesotans in Albert Lea rely on Mayo Clinic for essential care and services, and they deserve an open discussion, especially when a decision like this affects so many,” the statement said.

In addition to its creation of a panel, Mayo Clinic Health System said Monday it would invest multimillions into remodeling of the Albert Lea campus, designed to strengthen its position “as a regional hub for cancer care, upgrade building facilities, establish an integrated behavioral health and addiction services unit and upgrade diagnostic equipment.” Costs were estimated at just over $4 million.

Investments and enhancements include:

• $720,000 in improvements to the Cancer Center, one of Albert Lea’s “regional hub” services. Funding has been secured and planning is underway for enlarged, private chemotherapy infusion bays to provide more patient privacy and space for guests, as well as a beautiful fireplace and nourishment center for the comfort and enjoyment of patients. Funding comes from a unique partnership among Mayo, the fundraising activities of Naeve Foundation, and a generous benefactor.

• A $2.75 million investment in a new state-of-the-art campus cooling plant that is essential to upgrade the entire medical center’s cooling system. This upgrade will enable continued use of building space that would otherwise have been decommissioned, and will pave the way for future renovations and expansions.

• Building short stay observation beds near the emergency department in Albert Lea. These beds will allow staff to keep patients for observation for a variety of reasons, such as: recovery from short-stay surgery or effects of sedation, rehydration, or observation after an injury or illness brings them to the emergency department.

• Creation of an integrated environment for behavioral health care and addiction services, including remodeling to accommodate the transition of the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit (PSU) from Austin to Albert Lea. This transition will bring to Albert Lea a consistent inpatient census of 10-12 patients per day and the staff to care for them.

• Investment in radiology equipment for improved diagnostics. In 2015-2016, Mayo invested approximately $2.2 million in a new MRI machine and suite. In 2018, a new CT scanner will be added at a cost of about $600,000. This state-of-the-art equipment, the same as that used by Mayo Clinic in Rochester, will provide the highest-quality imaging with lower radiation exposure for patients, according to Mayo.

“We are a committed part of this community, and we take very seriously our responsibility to provide high-quality local care in a changing rural health care landscape,” said Dr. Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin. “These investments are an important step in that direction. As the population ages, cancer care will be needed more than ever, and Albert Lea is positioned to grow as a state-of-the-art cancer care hub.”

Dr. Annie Sadosty, regional vice president for Mayo Clinic Health System in southeast Minnesota, said, “There is a growing need for behavioral health and addiction care; these diseases touch every community and most families at some time in life. Helping these patients, who are among the most vulnerable in our communities, is an important part of Mayo’s mission of hope and healing.”

Regarding the combined positive impact of these Albert Lea campus improvements, Sadosty said, “These investments – and more to come in the future – are evidence that we are here to stay. Working with the community, we are committed to maintaining a strong medical center and contributing to a healthy, vibrant Albert Lea.”