Hospital group sends open letter to Mayo Clinic

Published 10:33 pm Thursday, August 17, 2017

Albert Lea-Save Our Hospital co-chairpersons Mariah Lynne and Brad Arends released an open letter to Mayo Clinic on Facebook Thursday morning expressing concern with the hospital system’s planned transition of most inpatient services to Austin.

In the letter addressed to Mayo Board of Trustees Chairman Sam Di Piazza, Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy and Mayo Clinic CAO and Vice President Jeff Bolton, the Save Our Hospital leaders invited them to meet with the community in Albert Lea.

“We promise a respectful, thoughtful meeting to discuss the needs of your patients in the Albert Lea area,” the letter stated.

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Lynne and Arends said they “stand in solidarity” with the letter Freeborn County approved sending to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson concerning the transition and spoke of local support for stopping the planned transition — the most since the community’s support for service members in World War II, they said.

“Envision the 90-year-old woman requesting to be taught how to navigate Facebook so she can send you a message, or a 5-year-old’s drawing illustrating she doesn’t equal ice cream, which has become an unfortunate analogy, yet rallying call for the community,” the letter stated. “Perhaps you saw the faces of the people marching in Rochester — seniors, teenagers, teachers and business owners — your patients. All found the courage to tell you that this decision could cost them their lives and livelihood. All of us — more than 60,000 — are imploring you to meet with us with the goal, as stated by (First District Congressman Tim Walz) of finding alternative and acceptable solutions to care for our most vulnerable patients.”

In a statement Thursday, Mayo Clinic Health System said it “is very concerned about the economic impact and the safety and efficiency of our service. Accordingly, we are building a viable and affordable system of care with the future of our patients in mind. By adjusting our services across both campuses, we’ll be able to focus on long-term affordability and viability in both communities by offering higher levels of care to patients and investing more in the latest technology and equipment.”

Lynne and Arends said by not engaging the community in the transition, the hospital system “displays undignified power that goes against the ethics set by Mayo founders Charles and William Mayo.”

The letter stated the 5 percent of services the hospital is moving in the transition “embodies the heart of a hospital — the most critical medical services that keep the elderly, babies and very sick alive and well.”

The intensive care unit is scheduled to be moved in October to Austin. 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. Emergency services, pregnancy care, outpatient surgeries and lab and radiology services will remain in both locations.

According to the letter, the health system’s transition is “life-threatening,” because of the effect the increased time will take for Albert Lea-area patients to be taken to Austin, as well as the dangers hazardous weather conditions pose.

“Please don’t wait to re-evaluate this move until the resulting first death,” the letter stated.

Arends and Lynne described the hospital system’s decision to transition most inpatient services as “economically devastating,” because the 5 percent of hospital services being transitioned “encompasses the highest revenue-producing services.”

According to the letter, the hospital system needs to hold true to its core value.

“You often speak of Mayo Clinic’s primary value, ‘the needs of the patient come first;’ unfortunately, your primary value is missing for us, the patients in the broader Freeborn County area,” the letter stated.

Mayo Clinic Health System said by making the best use of its resources, “we will be able to continue to provide safe, high-quality care for our patients in the Albert Lea community.”

About Sam Wilmes

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

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