Rally planned as intensive care unit to soon move

Published 9:21 pm Monday, September 18, 2017

Focus is on the importance of rural health care

The Albert Lea-Save Our Hospital group is planning a rally Sept. 30 at Central Park, shortly before Mayo Clinic Health System’s planned transition of most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin begins next month.

The rally will start at 1 p.m. and include speakers and a short walk past the Albert Lea hospital, according to the Save Our Hospital Facebook site.

“Save Our Hospital is hosting a rally for rural health care!” a statement on the Save Our Hospital website reads. “It’s not just about our hospital in Albert Lea. Save Our Hospital supports all communities who have lost services or may lose services. Join us at the rally! Mayo needs to know that we stand in solidarity and we aren’t going away! We will continue to fight until Mayo follows its mission of putting patients first!”

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In a statement Monday afternoon, Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin said, “we respect and appreciate the right of community members to voice their opinions. It’s encouraging to see an increased awareness among the community of rural health care and the challenges we face together.”

Save Our Hospital member Annie Mattson said if a different hospital was brought into the community, premiums would decrease and better health care would be delivered.

“They (Mayo Clinic Health System) started this, and frankly, we hope it has a different ending,” she said.

The intensive care unit is expected to move from Albert Lea to Austin next month. Inpatient surgeries are slated to move to Austin in January 2018, and the behavioral health center is expected to move from Austin to Albert Lea in 2019. Labor and delivery services will be the last to relocate to Austin in late 2019 or 2020.

The emergency department, primary care doctors, urgent care, pediatrics, pregnancy care, gynecology, specialty care, the Cancer Center, dialysis unit, mood care center, outpatient surgery and surgery services, along with Fountain Centers and inpatient psychiatric services, will be in Albert Lea following the transition.

Plans for the rally come as tensions remain evident between the community and Mayo Clinic Health System. Local government boards and state and federal lawmakers have expressed concerns and complaints over how the hospital system handled its plan to transition most inpatient services to Austin. In a five-page letter sent to Freeborn County Attorney David Walker last week, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said her office had found no violations in Mayo’s planned transition.

Mattson said the organization is upset with the approach Mayo is taking in the process. About 3,300 people have signed a petition for the community to keep a full-service hospital, she said.

“We are not happy,” she said. “We’re at the point … everybody is very disillusioned. The more we read about Mayo, the more upset we get.”

About Sam Wilmes

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

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