Sparks plans to address Mayo transition

Published 4:06 pm Friday, August 4, 2017

District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks plans to address Mayo Clinic’s plan to transition most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin at a Senate Select Committee on Health Care Consumer Access and Affordability on Aug. 17 and later this fall.

Sparks said though he is not sure the decision Mayo made can be changed, he wants the concerns his constituents have expressed to be heard.

After experiencing a high volume of worried calls, emails and coverage of the town hall meeting with 1st District U.S. Congressman Tim Walz on Monday, Sparks said he has “renewed vigor to fight the consolidation and the impending layoffs,” according to a press release.

Dan Sparks

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Sparks reportedly supports Freeborn County Attorney David Walker’s decision to contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office about potential anti-trust concerns relating to Mayo’s decision.

In a statement on Friday, the health system said though it appreciated Sparks’ interest in the issue, it was concerned “that his statement today contains some unfortunate errors. Suggesting ‘impending’ layoffs is not only inaccurate, but needlessly creates anxiety in the community and among our staff,” it states. “We are reaching out to him right now to correct these misperceptions and provide a better understanding of the challenges facing rural health care.”

Sparks said he has observed the transition since it was announced in June.

“My phone at home is ringing off the hook,” he said. “Countless local officials, Mayo employees and area residents have contacted me about their fears and Mayo’s lack of transparency. I empathize with residents of Albert Lea and the surrounding communities, because these hospital services are vital to the quality of life in our towns.”

Sparks said he was disappointed the Legislature invested $424 million in the Destination Medical Center in Rochester and Mayo plans to reduce services in other parts of its service area.

“I voted for the DMC funding and was very frustrated when the consolidation was announced. I did not expect expansion in Rochester and service reduction in Albert Lea,” he said. “The DMC was advertised as good for the entire region — the decision to reduce services in Albert Lea appears like Mayo is going back on its word.”

The hospital stated it values communicating with Sparks on the issues the hospital — along with all other rural hospitals across Minnesota and the United States — is facing regarding recruiting and keeping physicians and the changing of health care from an inpatient to an outpatient care delivery. The hospital system said those are not easy issues, and it is committed to Albert Lea and working together to strengthen the Albert Lea campus and the community.

“We are confident that patients will continue to have access to high-quality patient care in both Albert Lea and Austin, and that Mayo Clinic Health System will remain an integral contributor to the health and economic vitality of both communities,” it stated.

The hospital suggests anyone who wants more information and background on the transition to visit

Sparks’ comments come as tension continues to simmer between the hospital and the community.

In a letter to Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy earlier this week following his visit to the community, Walz, DFL-Mankato, said 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.

In response, Mayo said it values open communication with Walz on a wide range of issues, and appreciated his visit to the Albert Lea campus his attention to the issues facing health care services.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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