Mayo commits to $15M investment to Albert Lea campus

Published 1:27 pm Thursday, April 7, 2022

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By Alex Guerrero

Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea leaders on Thursday announced a $15 million investment to the Albert Lea campus to enhance and modernize several departments. 

The project will come about in three phases, and Dr. Sumit Bhagra, the site lead physician for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, estimated the upgrades to take 18 to 24 months for completion, with renovations and relocations starting in September. The construction project will not expand the boundaries of the hospital.

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“We started this journey of modernizing our facilities many years ago,” Bhagra said. “While we had hoped to plan for this project a year or two ago, COVID happened.

“We obviously provided excellent care to our communities during that, but our attention was obviously diverted towards taking the best care of the COVID pandemic.”   

The first phase involves the relocation of outpatient, behavioral health and Fountain Centers (the chemical dependency practice). They will be moved to the currently vacated space on the second floor of the hospital building.

“This will bring them closer to other clinical services,” Bhagra said.

By his estimates, it will also allow for further expansion down the road.

The move will allow for a larger clinical team and new services in psychiatry. 

“Behavioral health is a No. 1 area in any community health-needs assessment,” he said.

Phase two will move ambulatory surgery (same-day surgery) and infusion therapy to the former behavioral health space.

“They are larger rooms by about 30%,” he said “Each room is 130 square feet, compared to about 90 to 100 square feet today.”

Procedural rooms will also be co-located with the operating room suites and located toward the front of the building.

“There’s a higher volume of patients coming in and leaving after surgery,” he said. “The less they have to be transported to get to the main doors so that their loved ones can pick them up, I think it’s a patient convenience factor. Plus a larger facility.”

Phase three, scheduled to be finished by August 2024, will include the redesign of the emergency department and installation of a reflection space.

“The new emergency department contains 16 beds, 10 general care rooms, three safe rooms … [and] three observation or flex rooms available,” he said.

Currently there are seven regular rooms and one behavioral room.

The waiting areas in the emergency department will also be updated, remodeled and “made to look very good,” Bhangra said.

There will also be appropriately-sized workstations for staff, who are currently crowded with staff having to work through multiple computers. It will provide a better line-of-sight to patients, and they’ll be able to visualize patient exam rooms from their work space.

Increased security for patients and staff, as well as telemedicine, are also included in phase three.

“Teleneurology is a very common one,” he said. “When patients come in with a stroke, we immediately connect with a specialist in Rochester who appears on video and is able to walk our emergency department physicians to make sure that the highest level of care is provided right through our emergency department, and outcomes for stroke and heart attack patients are improved by that process.”

He stressed the renovation and redesign projects were made with the patient in mind, will provide a better working environment for staff and allow room for future expansion.       

“It’s gaining enhancement through better design,” he said.  

He didn’t anticipate a reduction in parking availability during the project, and said none of the departments involved in the modernization will be impacted.