Save Our Hospital organization looks at forming consortium as transition looms

Published 6:55 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Albert Lea-Save Our Hospital organization is in the beginning stages of possibly forming a health care consortium of towns in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, an association the organization said would wrestle back control of health care services to local communities.

The development is the latest in tensions between Save Our Hospital and Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin evident after the hospital system announced in June it would transition most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin.

Save Our Hospital fundraising committee Chairman Al Arends said the consortium is planned to include at least two representatives from each community in the association. Participating communities could determine the route the consortium goes, which could include becoming political, said Arends, who added communities could decide to bring in a health care provider based on cost, community needs and services the health care provider offers.

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The plan for a consortium is in an “embryonic stage,” he said, noting he expects the formation of the association to take months.

“It’s just in the beginning stages, but we are going to try and do it,” he said.

Save Our Hospital contacted the city of Fairmont regarding the possible consortium, and other communities have been invited to the Save Our Hospital rally at 1 p.m. Saturday at Central Park.

Arends criticized the approach Mayo Clinic Health System takes in the communities it serves.

“They don’t worry about what is happening in communities,” said Arends, who stated his opinion is that the hospital system wants to be as profitable as possible.

“They want to dictate medical policy, and that’s what they are doing in Albert Lea,” he said. “They are dictating medical policy.”

Southeast Minnesota pays 25 percent higher insurance costs than any other district in Minnesota, Arends said, including 40 percent higher rates than in the Twin Cities. He attributed high insurance costs to a lack of competition for health care services, which could be addressed by the consortium reaching out to other health care entities, Arends said.

Arends acknowledged the plan likely won’t change the course of Mayo’s planned transition but said Mayo needs to understand the community wants a greater influence in the health care services they are provided.

Arends expressed concern about the possible difficulty in driving the further distance to Austin for medical services, and he said retirement home administrators have told him costs associated with taking patients to Austin would likely be passed on to patients.

Tensions remain evident between local entities and Mayo Clinic Health System. Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said earlier this week that three to four hospital entities and three to four clinic entities have expressed interest in moving to Albert Lea, though the possibility is still “very speculative.”

State and federal representatives, as well as local entities, have requested Mayo Clinic Health System put a pause on the planned transition, but the hospital system has stated it plans to move forward with the transition because there is a staffing crisis that is putting the lives of patients at risk.

Mayo Clinic Health System declined to comment on the possible forming of a consortium.


About Sam Wilmes

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

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