Guest column: ALMC should reconsider decision

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 2, 2002

I have just noted in last week’s Alden Advance the featured four by eight-inch ad for the Alden Clinic by the Albert Lea Medical Center-Mayo Health System (ALMC-MHS). The headline in the ad reads: &uot;Your community healthcare partner with Mayo Clinic.&uot; Our task force for saving the Alden Clinic has been wondering when this is going to happen. I had just finished sending a letter to Dr. Peter W. Carryer, chair of Mayo Health System Operations, this week suggesting a real partnership association.

Of course, a partnership is a relationship of more than one entity. This has especially been a problem for us in Alden. Repeated requests for a two-way conversation with, and a reconsideration of, the ALMC-MHS board’s decision to close the Alden (and two Iowa) clinics have been denied. These requests were made to the ALMC-MHS CEOs, the ALMC-MHS board, and to the CEOs and MHS in Rochester that approve the recommendations and actions of the local boards.

The reason we repeatedly requested a board reconsideration of their decision was because the ALMC-MHS board’s decision was made in secret prior to Alden’s awareness of any planned clinic closure and how it would impact our city’s growth and surrounding area’s vitality. Multiple communications with various administrative levels have been belatedly ongoing, but without gaining any real assessment and appreciation of our respective difficult realities that beset the MHS and our communities as well.

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I am making public my letter sent to Dr. Carryer (with copies to all local and Rochester CEOs, board members and the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce &045; we should have no secret agenda) for the purpose of clarifying the problem with closing the Alden Clinic and to challenge all of us to solve our needs in true partnership. Now, here is the letter:

Dear Dr. Carryer:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding the closure of the Alden Clinic. We Alden and Albert Lea people do not agree with your letter’s statement: “This difficult decision was made by Albert Lea Medical Center-Mayo Health System after considerable study, analysis and discussion.” The study, analysis and discussion did not include or allow any input by the Alden community before the decision for closure had already been made by the Albert Lea Medical Center-Mayo Health System (ALMC-MHS) board. Hence, the ALMC-MHS board did not obtain any direct knowledge concerning significant and relevant factors that have made, and are necessary to continue to make, the City of Alden thrive and important to the greater Alden area, including Albert Lea and County of Freeborn. This is a contradiction and unconscionable impropriety by a health care provider that continually touts how “the patient and our community partnership always come first”!

(Enclosed are copies of two similar clippings from recently published Alden Advance and Albert Lea Tribune newspapers; the one entitled &uot;Notes From Home,&uot; the other &uot;’Objectivity’ talk doesn’t excuse handling of Alden clinic,&uot; authored by the freelance

writer David Rask Behling of rural Albert Lea.) He expresses very well the thoughts of the residents in Alden and Albert Lea, besides those of many other surrounding communities. I and many Alden and Albert Lea individuals have always personally contributed to, volunteered for and supported the Naeve Hospital, ALMC-MHS health care facilities and the Naeve Health Care Foundation over many decades. With ALMC-MHS having created for itself this new image of secrecy and abandonment, it becomes rather difficult to serve in concert with what is in reality a nonpartnership.

I will add that Alden’s, as well as Albert Lea’s, reaction is not merely what has been referred to an “emotional grief response.” It is rather a realistic “objective” response to an affront by a large health care business entity seeking its now challenged solution for its admitted own resource ends &045; decided in secrecy &045; without first seeking or considering the economic impact to a thriving and sought-after community, referred to as a “partner”.

We remind the ALMC-MHS again that the Alden Clinic has done better economically than the majority of the other ALMC satellites. The City of Alden exhibits growth as the Alden School continues to attract more students, ranking first in the state of Minnesota in student open enrollment. Many Albert Lea and surrounding community patients prefer the smaller more personalized atmosphere of this smaller clinic. I could go on. However, I will only note that after having a convenient and alternative health service provided locally for over a century, rightfully, our people cannot understand a closing of a successful clinic in an attempt to fortify the Albert Lea Medical Center-MHS and less successful satellite clinic’s problems.

Without a better study and a full reconsideration for reversal of the Alden Clinic closure decision by the ALMC Board, the ALMC-MHS is prone to suffer additional difficult realities, including a continued additional loss of respect and trust by patients in the communities of Albert Lea, Alden and the whole of Freeborn County.

Again, our community leaders will be more than pleased to personally bring to you and concerned others any additional or desired information for study, further discussion and consideration of the medical services requisite for our communities. Rather than imposing shortsighted fixes for the benefit of one entity, we must have the vision to cooperatively resolve more thoughtful solutions for any problems of all the entities involved. We need to come together in a face to face communication in a real partnership, with open minds, and learn from each other all the difficult realities affecting not only the central ALMC-MHS, but those of all of our affected communities. This cannot be accomplished in secrecy.

The writer is an Alden resident and former physician at the Alden Clinic.