Three Mayo employees receive layoff notices as transition unfolds

Published 2:52 pm Friday, July 28, 2017

Mayo Clinic is proceeding with transitioning most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin, as tension continues to simmer between the hospital and the community.

Mayo Clinic Health System informed three health unit coordinators on Wednesday their positions would be eliminated by the end of September as the hospital plans to move the intensive care unit to Austin in October. 

The eliminations of positions drew the ire of Minnesota Nurses Union organizer Jay Armstrong, who announced Mayo’s decision Thursday in a post on the Albert Lea-Save our Services Facebook page.

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“It has begun,” he said. “We have learned that Mayo has started to notify health unit coordinators that their last day will be Sept. 27. The first of 500 job losses?”

According to a statement from Mayo Clinic Health System on Friday, the information Armstrong conveyed was “inaccurate in several respects.”

The three health unit coordinators “were offered the standard employee transition plan, which includes severance pay based on their length of service and direct assistance from our Human Resources Department to find and apply for other positions in Albert Lea or any other Mayo facility,” according to the statement.

According to the hospital, employees were given information on some positions that are currently open, and new positions “will be posted soon that would be appropriate for these individuals. We are confident that these three valued employees will be able to remain employed with Mayo, if they so choose.”

The hospital said Armstrong “continues to speculate — with no evidence — on the number of jobs at risk. Circulating this rumor causes needless anxiety among staff and the community.”

According to Mayo Clinic Health System, less than 5 percent of services are being transferred from the Albert Lea hospital that employs about 1,000 people, with some jobs being shifted to Albert Lea.

“To speculate that one-half of the total workforce will be displaced is irresponsible,” the hospital stated.

According to the Minnesota Nurses Union, the fate of the 13 ICU nurses at the Albert Lea hospital remains to be seen. MNA Communications Specialist Barb Brady said the union was aware that three nurses had already departed since Mayo’s June 12 announcement.

Mayo Clinic Health System confirmed three Albert Lea special care unit nurses have recently left.

“The remaining nurses will have several options when their unit moves to Austin in October, and we do not know what each individual will choose to do,” the hospital stated. “We hope that the effects bargaining underway with the two separate Minnesota Nurses Association units will clarify the issues of union seniority and other considerations for nurses who wish to move between sites. We will continue to have a strong need for nursing staff to care for our patients, and we anticipate that there will be positions available for nurses who wish to remain with Mayo Clinic Health System.”

Inpatient surgeries are slated to move to Austin in January 2018, and the behavioral health center is expected to move from Austin to Albert Lea in 2019. Labor and delivery services will be the last to relocate to Austin in late 2019 or early 2020.

According to Mayo Clinic Health System, it is working “through the development of detailed staffing plans for each impacted unit to determine the number of positions that will transition between Albert Lea and Austin. Overall, the number of positions at each campus is expected to remain close to current levels when the transitions are complete in several years, although some individual staff members may need to consider transitioning to another location.”

The hospital states it will post positions in Austin Friday in preparation for the transition of ICU services.

“Nurses from Albert Lea may apply for those positions,” the hospital stated. “We continue to meet with Minnesota Nurses Association representatives to request that they bring the issue of the bargaining units recognizing each other’s union seniority to their members as soon as possible so our nurses can make informed decisions.”

Mayo Clinic Health System officials have cited recent revenue losses and a physician shortage at its Albert Lea and Austin hospitals as reasons for the planned transition — they state the two facilities had a combined net operating loss of $4.6 million in 2015 and $8 million last year.

Mayo’s layoff announcement came two days after the Albert Lea City Council unanimously approved requesting Mayo Clinic Health System officials delay the transition until at least Jan. 1, 2018, and meet regularly with a delegation of community representatives “to review and consider options to maintain hospital services at present levels in Albert Lea, and/or determine details on the economic and community impact the planned transition of services will have on Albert Lea and the broader community served by Mayo Clinic Health System.”

Also on Monday, U.S. First District Rep. Tim Walz, DFL-Mankato, said he hopes Mayo officials improve communication with the community before making a final decision.

Save Our Hospital plans to have a presence next week at the Freeborn County Fair, and local organizers plan to travel to Rochester Aug. 10 to call attention to efforts to keep a full-service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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