Letter: Next Mayo meeting is Wednesday

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I strongly support keeping our local hospital as a full service hospital.

It seems like the decision to move most of our in-patient hospital services to Austin was made without community input, contrary to promises made in 1995, and is being done to serve Mayo rather than the needs of our community.

We are a big enough community, serving a large surrounding area, to maintain a full service hospital. Our hospital is part of our community’s identity and our civic pride. Just as importantly, it’s necessary for our economic stability, let alone our hopes of growing.

Email newsletter signup

My hometown is Aitkin, a town of about 2,200 people in northern Minnesota. It has an independent, full service hospital that runs in the black. Aitkin’s population skews older than Albert Lea’s, and the county’s poverty rate is similar to Freeborn County’s. Fifteen miles west is Crosby, a town of about 2,400 people, which also runs an independent, full-service hospital in the black, even though it’s only 16 miles from Brainerd.

Knowing how these plucky hospitals are faring, I was gobsmacked when Mayo made the case that our hospital is losing money and we need to make our services “leaner.” Dr. Gostout’s rationale for why our hospital is losing money is that Mayo offers very expensive medical care that begets better outcomes.

It seems like we bought a luxury item we can’t afford. With Rochester not far away as a fantastic backstop, I think we could aim for quality care at a reasonable cost. Our hospital is no longer independent, though, and Mayo wants to turn our rural hospitals into specialized satellites that offer more care the closer they are to the mother ship.

We’re being reassured only 5 percent of services would be affected, but this would likely result in a chain reaction: fewer doctors would settle in our community, which would impact our tax base, our realtors, our schools, our local businesses — everything. Doctors are community leaders and supporters of the arts, humanities, charities and foundations that increase our quality of life.

These changes would likely create more financial gravity toward Austin. Nothing against Austin, but it’s not in our community’s interest to accept these changes as inevitable.

I hope we can find a solution that preserves our in-patient hospital services. It will be a test of our unity to stand together, because if we’re split apart on it, Mayo will more easily impose what it wants on our community. The precedent set here will have impacts on other communities that Mayo operates in, as well.

I was heartened to see how many community members crowded into the high school auditorium this past Thursday. This is just the beginning, and I hope many more people get involved. I am grateful to those who are leading the way on alternatives and sharing their expertise. Please come to the next community organizing meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council chambers.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Albert Lea