Social media campaign launched for hospital effort

Published 12:33 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A group of concerned citizens started a social media campaign this week as they look to keep a full-service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea after Mayo Clinic announced plans to transition most inpatient services to Austin.

Members of Albert Lea-Save Our Hospital are reaching out to Mayo Clinic leaders and  advocating for Albert Lea to keep its full-service hospital using hashtags, such as #holdthemayo, #SOHAL, #saveourhospital, #freebornbabiesforever and #medicalcareisnoticecream, a reference to a comment made by Mayo Clinic Vice President Bobbie Gostout at a community forum June 29 that compared driving 23 miles for childbirth services to traveling the same distance for ice cream. The campaign is occurring in connection with the booth Save Our Hospital has at the Freeborn County Fair. 

“This is about caring for our family, friends and neighbors,” said Jennifer Vogt-Erickson, vice chairwoman of public relations for the organization, in a press release announcing the campaign. “Specifically, it’s about safeguarding high-quality, timely medical care in a local setting for our most vulnerable citizens — the very sick, the elderly and babies.”

Vogt-Erickson said the organization plans to reach out to Mayo Clinic Health System and Mayo Clinic on social media, as well as sending letters and emails to Mayo leaders and trustees.

The organization’s plan also includes sending messages to Minnesota’s federal, state and local representatives detailing why the transition will negatively impact the very ill, seniors, mothers and newborn babies, and organization members plan to write columns and letters to the editor in local and state newspapers.

Vogt-Erickson said the hospital is not remaining true to its core values by undergoing the transition.

Mayo Clinic Health System said it appreciates ongoing discussion and communication and encourages anyone who has questions on the transition to visit mayoclinichealthsystem.org/locations/albert-lea/get-the-facts.

According to the website, patients will still be able to receive 95 percent of care on Albert Lea and Austin campuses, including all clinic visits in primary care, pediatrics, internal medicine and specialty care visits; emergency room, outpatient surgeries and procedures, and pregnancy care; and services such as lab, radiology and pharmacy.

“Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin is a single practice with two campuses located in neighboring communities less than 25 miles apart,” the health system stated. “Work is being done to adjust services on both campuses to ensure patients can continue to receive care close to home. Both campuses will continue to function as top-tier medical centers.”

According to the health system, keeping most inpatient care in Austin will allow it to offer “higher levels of care and testing options to patients and make the best use of capital resources by staffing single, larger units and avoiding duplication of expensive equipment and technology.”

The hospital noted it is consolidating most inpatient behavioral health services — the psychiatric services unit — and addiction services in Albert Lea.

“Bringing these behavioral health services together in one location will create more opportunities for staff collaboration and keep related services located together for the convenience of our patients,” the hospital stated.

The rollout of the social media campaign comes the same week 1st District Congressman Tim Walz visited Albert Lea and wrote a subsequent letter to Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy regarding the hospital’s decision to transfer most inpatient services.

According to the press release, the movement started with hundreds of people attending the community meeting in late June.

“Afterward, scores of citizens began volunteering in countless ways to ‘Hold the Mayo’ from cutting life-saving care in Albert Lea,” the press release stated.

Walz, DFL-Mankato, said in the letter he was disappointed in the hospital system’s failure to “fully and proactively engage the Albert Lea community on this decision,” after hearing that many community members and officials did not know of the planned changes ahead of the announcement. Others said they were disappointed they did not have a chance to provide input and were still seeking data and questions about the decision.

Save Our Hospital co-chairwoman Mariah Lynne said in the press release the community “is showing exceptional effort in communicating how detrimental Mayo’s decision to end inpatient services is.”

She said they were pleased that Walz visited and listened to the community on Monday, “and look forward to building more momentum with his support and all those across Minnesota and Iowa impacted by Mayo’s decision.”

A group of concerned citizens plans to travel next Thursday to downtown Rochester to call attention to their efforts to keep a full service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea.

Despite community pushback against the decision, Mayo Clinic Health System informed three health unit coordinators last week their positions would be eliminated by the end of September as the hospital plans to move the intensive care unit to Austin in October.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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