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Franken issues letter regarding Mayo changes

Senator encourages hospital to increase engagement

By Sarah Kocher

U.S. Sen. Al Franken picked up his pen on Thursday to address Mayo Clinic Health System’s upcoming changes in Albert Lea and Austin.

In a letter to Mayo Clinic CEO and President John Noseworthy dated Thursday, Franken asked the clinic to increase interaction with communities across Minnesota.

The letter Franken, D-Minn., wrote is a follow-up from an Aug. 23 conversation between Franken and Noteworthy in which “we discussed my hope that you and the Mayo Clinic’s leadership would increase your community outreach and spend more time listening to the communities you serve.”

It comes amid a Mayo Clinic Health System service transition from Albert Lea to Austin. Most inpatient services are slated to move to Austin, while the behavioral health unit will move to Albert Lea. The intensive care unit is the first to move this week.

Franken also cited his work with the Senate Rural Health Care Caucus, stating he is aware of the “barriers” Minnesotans deal with when accessing quality health care in rural areas. Franken’s letter was prompted by concerned constituents calling Franken’s office about Mayo Clinic’s planned changes.

“During this time of uncertainty and debate around health care access and affordability, I urge you as a leader to create opportunities that increase engagement with communities across Minnesota and that provide more information regarding the transition of services,” Franken wrote.

Franken also urged greater action on the Mayo Clinic’s part to better inform the public of delivery model changes, specifically those that have the potential to affect rural communities in Minnesota.

“We agree with Senator Franken that the complexities and challenges of rural health care are immense,” Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin said in a statement Thursday. “Meeting the commitment we made to Senator Franken, we have been engaging in conversations throughout the community to listen, understand and address concerns where possible. We are here for the long term for our patients, employees and community.”

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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