Editorial: Secrecy in ALMC’s decisionmaking is troubling

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 10, 2002

The decision by the Albert Lea Medical Center to close the Alden Clinic &045; whether it’s already been made or not &045; should trouble people in Freeborn County.

The problem is not that ALMC is choosing to do something that is going to be unpopular with some residents. Every institution has to make decisions that will be unpopular with some people.

What is troubling about this situation is the secrecy.

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ALMC is not like other businesses. It’s not a Kwik Trip or a Dairy Queen closing a franchise. ALMC is our medical provider, and in Freeborn County it’s the only option when people need medical care.

When our kids are sick with strep throat or ear infections we depend on ALMC to be available to help us. When we get hurt at work, in school or at home, we expect ALMC to salve our wounds. Later in life we need ALMC to help tend to the infirmities and indignities life brings us.

A medical clinic is part of a community in the way no other business is, and it doesn’t feel right for the provider of that medical care to hide it’s decisions about how it plans on offering care behind a wall of secrecy.

This decision, whenever it’s finally announced, affects the quality of life for patients of the Alden Clinic, and for patients of the clinics in Northwood and Garner, too. It may affect the jobs of staff at those locations.

Not keeping local residents, patients and clinic staff informed and involved in the decision-making about the Alden Clinic unfortunately reinforces the negative perception that all the “company” cares about is the profitability of its operations.

The ends may be to make better use of healthcare resources, but if the means involve secretly discussing and implementing a decision that will potentially affect hundreds of county residents, the benefits come at too high a price.

It’s a mistake to hide the decision-making from the people who are the most affected. Hopefully the people in Alden who are busy writing letters and calling ALMC board members will get a chance to make a case for their clinic.