Mayo to discontinue services at LeRoy clinic

Published 10:45 am Thursday, September 7, 2017

By Deb Nicklay, Austin Daily Herald

LEROY — A “severe” staffing shortage and low patient numbers have prompted Mayo Clinic Health System in LeRoy to discontinue clinic services effective Oct. 2, according to a press release issued Thursday.

The pharmacy, adjacent to the clinic, will remain open.

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According to Mayo officials, the “difficult decision to discontinue clinic services in LeRoy involved open communication with local officials in the city of LeRoy. The clinic had been open two days a week.

“Mayo Clinic Health System leaders engaged in dialogue with Mayor Brian Thiel and Economic Development Authority member Craig Jacobson about the challenges in the rural healthcare. Specific to LeRoy, a critical shortage of clinical staff added to the complexity of maintaining operations as they exist today. Designing a model of care that benefits patients in rural areas in the future is a mutual goal.”

Alice Kaasa, the clinic’s certified nurse practitioner, will move to the Austin campus. Her last day in LeRoy is Sept. 28. Due to the resignation of two nurses earlier this year, staff members from Austin have been filling in to keep the LeRoy clinic operational. Kaasa applied for and accepted a position with Mayo Urgent Care. Other employees will be offered jobs elsewhere.

“Our first priority is to ensure continuity of care for our patients,” says Tricia Dahl, operations administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin. “Patients are being notified of our plans to discontinue primary care at the clinic, and we will work closely with patients and local leaders to ensure a smooth transition for those who choose care at a nearby location, either at Mayo Clinic Health System in Adams or in Austin.”

“Our discussion with Mayor Thiel and EDA member Jacobson was very productive and forward-looking,” according to Dr. Annie Sadosty, regional vice president for Mayo Clinic Health System.

Thiel told the Herald on Thursday that he agreed Mayo officials were willing to listen to concerns and the talks were “friendly and productive.” He noted the growing issue of staffing is affecting many small clinics. LeRoy officials first sat down with Mayo in August.

“We can see the trends developing where small towns are increasingly at-risk for keeping the traditional face-to-face ‘Dr. Welby’ type of medical services, so this did not surprise us,” Thiel said. “Marcus Welby M.D.” was a popular television show about a longtime family physician.

The nearby Adams clinic, about 12 miles from LeRoy, remains open and has a stable staff, according to a community meeting held in August with Mayo officials. The next closest clinic, which was located in Grand Meadow, closed in 2014, when it could not find a doctor to replace a retiring physician.

Mayo officials, on the clinic’s website, said the closing has no relation to the relocation of inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin, which has proved to be a hot-button issue this summer. There are also no plans to close other facilities at this time.

Thiel said the closing raises concerns with its Wildwood Grove Adult Living Center, that provides assisted living, independent and memory care services. Wildwood Grove “has concerns for its clientele getting the many routine tests that need to be made on a timely and efficient basis.”

There are some types of services that can be done without face-to-face meetings with doctors, Mayo officials say.

“We made a strong commitment to work together on alternatives for the residents of LeRoy and surrounding areas,” said Sadosty. “In the near future, we plan to host a community event to introduce residents to some of our non-visit care offerings such as the nurse line, Express Care Online and Patient Online Services. We’ll have staff available to help residents create their Patient Online Services account, which is the entry point for many of our services.”

Thiel said the fiber optic installation at Wildwood and other city facilities will “be very productive in compensation for reduced in-person contact.”

The clinic building is owned by Mayo Clinic and the structure includes the pharmacy. While Thiel is not sure exactly what will happen with the vacated space, “we in LeRoy are ever hopeful that one day soon there might be a medical education outlet here for interns or residents to provide in-person services here, or that some other agency might be interested in serving this area,” he said. He added he was grateful the pharmacy would remain.

“LeRoy is a progressive community with highly-engaged citizens and leaders,” Sadosty said. “We look forward to the innovations we’ll make together that take advantage of technology and strategic sharing of resources to deliver convenient care to our patients.”

“Of course, nobody in LeRoy is happy to lose the services of a certified nurse-practitioner,” Thiel said. “but the continuation of the pharmacy is helpful. People in LeRoy are taking note of the readiness of Mayo regional staff to continue to engage with us working out compensating methods and alternative people.

“We are optimistic that our city and the nearby area will have competent medical services well into the future. It will follow different methods, for sure, but LeRoy will be its typical proactive and innovative and will do all we can to assure it means that life in LeRoy is as good as ever, or better than ever.”