A legacy in Albert Lea: Hospital, started over 100 yrs. ago, has seen many changes

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017

By Tyler Julson

The recent announcement that Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin will consolidate its inpatient care to the Austin campus has sparked discussion within the community. Here is a look at the history of the Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea.

Naeve Hospital

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The first step in the process of establishing an official hospital in Albert Lea was taken in 1905 when a group of citizens held a meeting in City Hall and formed the City and County Hospital Association, according to the Freeborn County Heritage Book published in 1988. The group was headed by President W.A. Morin.

Prior to this, there had been a handful of doctors who operated privately out of their homes.

The board raised around $5,000 and leased the Hamilton Wilcox home for five years. Although the home was inconvenient and a fire hazard, it was considered to be only temporary.

Theodore Naeve and his wife, Dorothea, had bought and lived in a home on Fountain Street in Albert Lea up to the time of Dorothea’s death in 1908. Before her death, she had expressed that she wanted her home to be donated for the purpose of a hospital. Dorothea’s brother, Charles Soth, carried out her wish and donated the home to the City and County Hospital Association. Shortly after the donation Soth died in an accident and an additional $5,000 gift was made in his honor.

In 1909, a board organized a building program and moved the house to another location. To fund the new building, $21,000 was collected by 100 solicitors and $17,000 was borrowed. The new hospital was three floors with a capacity of 40 beds.

In 1923, $60,000 was borrowed to build a new addition, which nearly doubled bed capacity from 40 to about 80 beds.

The City and County Hospital Association was renamed the Naeve Hospital Association in 1924.

In 1946, a $500,000 expansion was built that again increased capacity by another 50 beds. It also included new operating rooms, an X-ray department, a central supply and new laboratories.

A building and planning committee set plans in June 1972 to build a new facility. Ground was broken on the site of the new hospital on Nov. 28, 1973, and patients were officially moved into the new building on Dec. 6, 1975. The new hospital cost $5.7 million and housed 115 beds.

In 1981, Fountain Lake Treatment Center was added to Naeve Health Care Corporation as a subsidiary. The treatment center is used to treat alcohol and chemical dependency, as well as behavioral issues.

Albert Lea Regional Medical Group

Up until the mid 1950s, Albert Lea still had multiple physicians working privately from their homes and businesses. In 1958, a small group of doctors came together to form The Albert Lea Medical and Surgical Center; the building was on North St. Mary Avenue.

A separate group of doctors formed The Albert Lea Clinic which opened in 1960 on West Fountain Street.

By 1976, both groups were researching and conducting studies of the financial problems they were facing and the possible solutions for those problems. The best solution for both of the groups problems became clear — consolidation.

Prior to consolidation, many satellite clinics had opened in the surrounding communities, including clinics in New Richland, Alden, Lake Mills, Kiester, Northwood and Wells.

In July 1985, the two groups came together to form the Albert Lea Regional Medical Group, P.A. The Medical Group started with 35 doctors, two Albert Lea facilities and six satellite offices.

Merging with Mayo

In January 1995, it was announced that the Albert Lea East and West Clinics would become an affiliate of Mayo Health Systems.

Although Naeve Hospital and the Albert Lea’s East and West Clinics had been working together for many years, it wasn’t until December 1995 when it was announced that Naeve Health Care would be merging with the clinics and joining the Mayo affiliation.

On Jan. 1, 1997, the merging of Albert Lea’s clinics, Naeve Hospital and Mayo Medical Center in Rochester became official. The new name became Albert Lea Medical Center – Naeve Mayo Health System.

The Mayo merger meant that there would be a much bigger facility in the near future. The new additions included 100,000 square feet of new facilities and would cost about $23.7 million.

The new grounds held both the East and West Clinics, a new Fountain Lake Treatment Center, as well as — at the time of completion — the Midwest’s only cancer treatment center.

In 2006, it was announced that the medical center would make some new renovations including two more floors and a new entrance lobby.

The latest change the medical center has made was a name change in 2011. The Albert Lea Medical Center was changed to Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin. The two locations now make up one entity. 

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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