Attorney general requests Mayo delay planned transition

Published 1:51 pm Friday, September 22, 2017

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson last week requested Mayo Clinic delay its planned implementation of most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin.

In the one-page letter, Swanson mentioned a pending financial review of the future viability of the Albert Lea hospital.

“It strikes me that the review could help facilitate an acceptable path forward for all parties,” she wrote. “I am told that such a review is likely to take at least 90 days to complete, however. In order to make the financial review productive in potentially moving the parties toward a consensus approach, I ask that Mayo Clinic agree to a standstill in the cessation of any medical services in Albert Lea while the financial review is underway.”

Email newsletter signup

In a written response to Swanson Monday, Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy said the hospital “must respectfully decline your request.”

“The critical staffing shortage and related patient safety risk that drove our decision to consolidate have not changed,” he wrote. “We have an obligation to move forward with our consolidation plan to ensure that we can appropriately staff critical positions and continue to deliver safe, high-quality care.”

Tensions continue to simmer between the hospital system and the community. The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners, Albert Lea-Save Our Hospital organization and Albert Lea City Council have all agreed to contribute up to $35,000 to hire a health care finance consultant to determine the long-term feasibility of the Albert Lea hospital.

Noseworthy discussed the planned transition of the intensive care unit that is expected to be complete next month.

“ICU patients are among our most vulnerable and it is essential that their care is provided in the safest environment possible,” he said. “We recognize and regret that our consolidation plan is unpopular with some residents of Albert Lea and other stakeholders. However, we are convinced that it is necessary to proceed with our plan in order to serve the best interests of our patients.”

Noseworthy invited Swanson to contact him if she had additional questions or would like to have an in-person meeting.

Swanson’s office announced last week it had found no violations in the planned transition after Freeborn County Attorney David Walker requested Swanson look into possible violations by the hospital system.

Almost all of the 19 nurses whose jobs are impacted by moving ICU services to Austin decided to stay in Albert Lea, said Mayo Clinic spokeswoman Mandie Siems. A few employees took positions at Mayo in places other than Austin or Albert Lea for other reasons, she said.

“There were available positions on the Albert Lea and Austin campuses to accommodate any and all of the impacted nurses who wished to stay with Mayo,” Siems said.

Thursday is expected to be last day for admissions into the Albert Lea ICU.

“We are planning carefully for the safety and comfort for our patients, so the medical team will be assessing the expected length of stay of each patient that requires intensive care beginning on Monday,” she said. “If they will require intensive care beyond the Oct. 1 transition date, they will be admitted directly to Austin to avoid transferring them during their hospitalization.”

The hospital system has consistently stated it cannot delay or stop the planned transition due to the reasons Noseworthy cited in the letter, despite requests from AARP, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, 1st District Congressman Tim Walz and other groups in favor of the hospital pausing the transition.

Mayo representatives have said the hospital system made its decision to transfer most inpatient services after an 18-month process that included research and an exploration of options. The plan is the best option the hospital system has to maintain a majority of serves Mayo Clinic Health System provides in Albert Lea and Austin, representatives have said.

About Sam Wilmes

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

email author More by Sam