Mayo announces investments to A.L. campus

Published 6:27 pm Monday, August 21, 2017

Mayo Clinic Health System on Monday announced plans to make several million dollars in investments at its Albert Lea campus, but the news was not enough to quell the concerns of a local group that wants to keep a full-service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea.

The health system announced it would invest $720,000 to the Cancer Center, $2.75 million for a new campus cooling plant and $600,000 for a new CT scanner in 2018, according to a press release. The hospital system plans to build short-stay observation beds near the emergency department in Albert Lea to keep patients for observation for recovery from a short-stay surgery or effects of sedation, rehydration or observation after an injury or an illness. Remodeling will also take place to accommodate the transition of the inpatient psychiatric unit from Austin to Albert Lea, which is expected to have 10 to 12 patients per day, along with the staff for these patients.

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The announcement came the same day as Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson visited Albert Lea along with the leaders of other state agencies to meet with local officials about the potential impact of Mayo Clinic Health System’s transition of most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin.

The health system stated the investments “are designed to strengthen its position as a regional hub for cancer care, upgrade building facilities, establish an integrated behavioral health and addiction services unit and upgrade diagnostic equipment.”

“We are a committed part of this community, and we take very seriously our responsibility to provide high-quality local care in a changing rural health care landscape,” said Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin in the release. “These investments are an important step in that direction. As the population ages, cancer care will be needed more than ever, and Albert Lea is positioned to grow as a state-of-the-art cancer care hub.”

Renovations to the Cancer Center include enlarged, private chemotherapy infusion bays to provide more patient privacy and space for guests, as well as a nourishment center and fireplace for patients, the health system stated. Funding is from Mayo, as well as from funds raised by Naeve Health Care Foundation and a benefactor, whose name was not released.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, Jennifer Vogt-Erickson, vice chairwoman of public relations for the Albert Lea-Save Our Hospital organization, said revenue from the Cancer Center does not stay in Albert Lea.

It is her understanding that while a patient may receive cancer care at Albert Lea, their payment is made and the credit is applied to the Cancer Center in Rochester.

“Albert Lea does not get that revenue. It’s another reason why Mayo Clinic doesn’t show Albert (Lea) as financially successful.”   

The hospital system stated the investment in the cooling plant is “essential to upgrade the entire medical center’s cooling system. This upgrade will enable continued use of building space that would otherwise have been decommissioned, and will pave the way for future renovations and expansions.”

Vogt-Erickson said the plan is part of a master facilities plan and “would have already been in the works for at least the last couple of years as part of a normal upgrade of its HVAC system. And Mayo, if we had to choose between an updated cooling system and life-saving ICU for vulnerable patients, I think we would prioritize the latter.”

Vogt-Erickson said short-stay rooms are not inpatient care with a doctor, and she questioned where the “concrete plans” are for the behavioral health care and addiction services units.

“This specialty garners one of the lowest returns on investment in health care, so how would it contribute to the solvency of our hospital,” she said. “If Mayo wants to make real change in addiction services — and it should — it should restore the patient treatment services for juveniles and women that it recently took away without community input.”

Annie Sadosty, regional vice president for Mayo Clinic Health System in southeast Minnesota, said there is a “growing need” for addiction care and behavioral health.

“Helping these patients, who are among the most vulnerable in our communities, is an important part of Mayo’s mission of hope and healing,” she said.

Sadosty said the investments at the Albert Lea hospital “are evidence that we are here to stay.”

“Working with the community, we are committed to maintaining a strong medical center and contributing to a healthy, vibrant Albert Lea,” she said.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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