Union plans to rally for nursing home workers

Published 10:38 pm Thursday, September 21, 2017

A union representing health care workers at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont is planning a rally Monday in Fairmont to express concern about the planned closing of Lutz Wing Nursing Home later this year.

The rally is expected to call attention to the Teamsters Local 120 request that the closing of the nursing home will not result in a loss of health care services for the Fairmont community, said Paul Slattery, Teamsters Union organizer. He expressed concern about the fate of the approximately 30 union nursing assistant positions that are expected to be cut due to the closing of the nursing home. There are 44 total positions expected to be impacted by the closing, including six workers represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association and nine non-union employees.

Mayo spokesman Micah Dorfner said the hospital system “has been collaborating with area skilled nursing colleagues to help identify job openings at those facilities.”

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The union is reportedly trying to provide the chance for employees whose jobs are lost due to the closing of the nursing home to have preference in being hired by the hospital system.

Slattery said he is concerned the closing of Lutz Wing Nursing Home is part of a larger trend the hospital system and other health care providers have engaged in across the state — transitioning health care services from small towns to a central hub. He specifically mentioned Mayo Clinic Health System’s planned transition of most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin, which is expected to begin next month with the moving of the intensive care unit to Austin.

Since Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit entity that receives taxpayer dollars, it has a commitment to its employees and the community it serves, Slattery said.

According to a press release Aug. 24 announcing the decision, hospital leaders expect the nursing home to close by Dec. 1. Fairmont-based Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center is collaborating with the hospital system to offer consultation and facilitate transitions for patients who choose to relocate to Lakeview, which provides short- and long-term skilled nursing care.

“Lakeview enjoys a deep, collaborative relationship with Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, with Dr. Jeffrey Green as our medical director and Adria Whiting as our on-site nurse practitioner,” said Lakeview Administrator Deb Barnes. “We are partners in a very successful pilot project for residents with congestive heart failure, and Fairmont hospital is the provider of choice when our residents need acute care. Our hope is that this decision to centralize specialties and long-term care in Fairmont leads to an even stronger partnership and unmatched service for the community.”

The health system is expected to still provide rehabilitation services and medical coverage to area nursing home residents, as well as swing bed care in its facility.

Lutz Wing Nursing Home is a more than 40-bed facility that is adjacent to the Fairmont hospital.

The decision to close the nursing home was made after consultation with community officials and collaboration with Lakeview Methodist, according to the hospital system. Necessary approvals and support came from Mayo Clinic Health System’s Community Board of Directors, Blue Earth County Social Services Department, Minnesota Department of Human Services and Minnesota Department of Health to move forward with the plan, according to the press release.

“In addition, Mayo Clinic Health System leaders have conducted meetings with community officials and state legislators to solicit input and guidance through the process,” the news release states.

Marie Morris, Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont medical director, said, “The decision to discontinue operations of Lutz Wing is the result of a thorough evaluation of long-term skilled nursing care options in the Fairmont region and how Mayo Clinic can best serve our patients.

“We’re fortunate to have a wonderful skilled nursing facility in Fairmont — Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center — and six additional facilities within 30 miles.”

A more than 40-bed facility, the nursing home is adjacent to Fairmont hospital.

“Mayo Clinic Health System’s core competencies involve caring for patients in clinical, hospital and emergency settings,” said James Hebl, regional vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System. “Our nursing home partners in the Fairmont area excel in caring for individuals with specialized long-term needs. The collective goal is to make sure patients and residents are receiving expert care in the appropriate setting.”

Fairmont Chamber of Commerce President Margaret Dillard said there will be a “tremendous emotional impact” for patients because they view the facility as their home. She said Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont and Lakeview are working together to minimize the economic impact of closing the nursing home — an approach she deemed “pro-active” — and she discussed the difficulty hospitals face in keeping doctors and dealing with rising insurance costs. Lakeview is expanding its facility to accommodate the planned influx of patients, Dillard said.

The next effects bargaining session is scheduled for Monday.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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