Guest Column: It would be a mistake to give up on Mayo fight

Published 9:58 pm Monday, August 28, 2017

My Point of View, By Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

There seems to be a little confusion about the word “protest.” A protest is not necessarily a violent event, and it shouldn’t be, but it is disruptive. A protest is a public demonstration of a “strong objection to a policy or course of action adopted by those in authority.” Thus, the point of protest is to disrupt authority. And a rally — like, say, to save a hospital — is a form of political protest.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

It can be really intimidating, though, to go against those who hold key decision-making power. Some people in Albert Lea may be doing it for the first time in their lives, but when the cause is really important for family and community, it makes it easier. It also makes it less daunting that we have many people working together for the same outcome. And finally, if we don’t stand up for ourselves and our hospital, no one else is going to care enough to save it for us.

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The big mistake at this point would be to give up or lose steam and stop being disruptive. That would allow Mayo to go forward with its plans without further resistance. We didn’t buy into its “optimization” euphemism, but Mayo would still score a major win if we just accept this as “inevitable” and acquiesce. Mayo still hasn’t budged — it has done nothing so far except proceed in a way that is for Mayo’s benefit, not for rural patients or for our community. We want Mayo to listen to the communities it serves, not assume that what’s best for it is what’s best for us. It won’t do that unless we can disrupt it.

Almost everything I’m learning about Mayo Clinic Health System is making me sick or mad, and now I’m skeptical of everything Mayo says. Last week Mayo trumpeted an HVAC system upgrade in Albert Lea shortly after Gov. Dayton’s and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith’s press release voicing concern about Mayo’s failure to engage Albert Lea in its decision to close inpatient services. Mayo was clearly trying to deflect the political blow rather than accept any accountability for its tone deaf actions. Unfortunately, a number of news organizations (not this one) didn’t see it for what it was and allowed Mayo to mitigate the impact of Dayton’s and Smith’s words while offering very little.

Our community had a lot of trust in the Mayo name. Mayo Clinic Health System, under the umbrella of Mayo Clinic, has overstepped its boundaries and damaged community trust. Mayo is acting like a poor corporate citizen. We need to keep disrupting it as much as we possibly can, in a constructive way. That could mean lots of things, and we’re a creative bunch.

If Mayo is held accountable, it will be because we raised a (peaceful) ruckus and opened political space for leaders to intervene. Or maybe Mayo will decide on its own that further damage to its reputation isn’t worth it, and it will cut its losses (give back our hospital) and return its focus to what it’s exceptional at in Rochester.

Be disruptive in every positive way you can think of. Be a force for the good of our community. Nothing is out of our hands as long as we can dial an elected official’s number and tell the person on the other end of the phone in no uncertain terms that we need a full-service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea.

I have one final protest here, and I’m aiming it at Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both DFL, who have both so far had little or nothing to say publicly on this matter. To quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.