City, Mayo Clinic agree to structured dialogue

Published 7:57 am Monday, October 16, 2017

Mayo Clinic and the city of Albert Lea have agreed to discuss the hospital system’s planned transition of most inpatient services to Austin.

Retired judge and former state Rep. David Minge will facilitate the discussion, according to a press release from U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, who helped Albert Lea and Mayo Clinic to enter the structured talks.

“This process offers a potential path forward in understanding the drivers behind Mayo Clinic’s decision, the challenges facing rural health care and, most importantly, defining solutions to work together on the future of health care in this community,” Walz said.

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Albert Lea and Mayo Clinic are expected to split the cost of services for the discussion, and the two entities plan to jointly decide on the scope of dialogue, issues to be covered, timeline, budget and other items regarding the plan to create conditions for “productive, problem-solving discussions,” the press release said.

In a joint statement, the city and Mayo Clinic said they “have a responsibility to the communities we serve to engage in constructive communication going forward. Facilitated dialogue is a very positive step in meeting our shared goal of providing quality health care, and we are dedicated to the hard work ahead of us. We thank Rep. Walz for his service to his constituents and for working to bring us to the discussion table.”

The agreement comes after the first part of Mayo’s planned transition of most inpatient services to Austin began with the moving of the intensive care unit. In-patient surgeries are expected to move to Austin in January, and the behavioral health center will move from Austin to Albert Lea in 2019. Labor and delivery services will be last to relocate to Austin in late 2019 or early 2020.

Mayo Clinic chairwoman of government relations Kathleen Harrington said the hospital is grateful for the work of Walz and other elected officials on behalf of Albert Lea and the future of rural health care.

“We look forward to participating in this dialogue with the city and county leaders and continuing our efforts with all our federal and state elected leaders,” Harrington said.

Despite calls to delay the transition from state and federal lawmakers, local entities and members of the public, Mayo Clinic has given no indication it will delay the plan.

A date for the first meeting has not been set, said Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams, adding he wants a meeting to take place by the end of this month.