Letter: Situation is a maelstrom of clashing ideologies

Published 10:34 pm Monday, September 11, 2017

Until recently, I was among those people served by Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin who listened to all without judgement, trying to separate the truth from rumors. Up until recently, the only real problems seemed to be how decisions had been damaged by the lack of transparency and poor communication. I was willing to give Mayo’s corporate leaders the benefit of the doubt, even though I was incredibly disappointed.

I am no longer as open-minded. Now I’m standing at the crossroads of disappointment and despair, with the road leading down into ugly cynicism the one that appears the most inevitable.

Why am I no longer one of those people? Because of Mayo’s continued mishandling of the decision. First the message was about deficits, then it shifted to efficiency and duplication of facilities, and now it’s about the difficulty finding qualified staff. And the common thread running through their excuses is the inability of corporate leadership to look for outside information and feedback.

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Mayo is acting like a profit-focused corporation, which isn’t interested in working with outsiders to find a win-win outcome; with their backs against the wall, they are choosing to fight to win at any cost.

My journey to the crossroads of despair and disappointment isn’t all about Mayo, however. On the surface, the local group working to save the hospital looks like former adversaries from the progressive and conservative sides of the political spectrum working together, having combined their energies in support of an important goal. But is that glimpse of unity the true picture?

In the past few years, some of those helping to lead the group have made it clear they think the government needs to keep its hands off health care and the corporations that control it. Others helping to lead that group are on record wanting to see the government take over health care completely, including decisions about what is essential care and what is only desirable. Are those leaders actually listening to each other now and finding ways to learn how to amend their more extreme ideas? Or are their blinders up as they focus on the immediate local problem of a full-service hospital in Albert Lea?

And in the background there is the national paralysis when it comes to any decisions about health care for Americans. Angry rural voters chose our current leaders partly because they didn’t like the ACA and the way it made health insurance mandatory. Those voters wanted the freedom of choice to receive health care without having to pay for health insurance.

Now, many angry rural voters have apparently changed their minds about that freedom of choice. Perhaps they suddenly remembered that the old rules gave insurance companies freedom of choice in whom they insured because their own profits mattered most. Hospitals, on the other hand, did not have (and still do not have) the freedom to choose not to treat people who show up in emergency rooms. So when patients didn’t pay their bills, hospitals raised rates, consolidated or closed.

We have, together, created a maelstrom of clashing ideologies. Any wonder the road taking me down to cynicism seems so inevitable?

David Rask Behling

Albert Lea