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Hospital effort raises over $100K

Donations have come in from across the country

The Albert Lea-Save Our Hospital organization has raised more than $101,000 in tax-deductible donations since July, a number the organization said will help in its mission to keep a full-service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea.

“The fundraising committee has done a tremendous job, and we’ve all worked hard to demonstrate the integrity of our movement,” said Jennifer Vogt-Erickson, a Save Our Hospital member. “We’ve received donations from across the country, and that shows incredible support from both community members and also people with long-lasting, long-distance ties to Albert Lea.”

The funds will give the organization future options with public relations and other steps, Vogt-Erickson said. Those options are expected to become clear after the release of the results of the feasibility study by health care consulting firm Quorum Health Resources LLC.

Save Our Hospital is splitting the cost of the maximum $75,000 cost with the city of Albert Lea and Freeborn County, which is expected to include an analysis of the Albert Lea hospital, analysis of market conditions for sustainability and future options.

The analysis was sought after Mayo Clinic Health System officials in June announced plans to move most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin.

Save Our Hospital members have discussed speaking with state legislators to see if state laws can be changed so rural communities can have more of a say in health care services.

Paul Thissen, former Minnesota House Speaker and candidate for Minnesota governor, signaled he would be open to changing those laws earlier this month at a rally in Albert Lea.

Members have discussed sharing stories of how the transition is affecting them, as well as their hopes of taking back a full-service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea.

Save Our Hospital members attended DFL and GOP gubernatorial debates in Rochester within the last two weeks.

Weekly 6 p.m. Sunday meetings at the American Legion will shift to meetings the first and third Sundays of each month.

At Sunday night’s meeting, Save Our Hospital leaders spoke highly of the community effort that has been undertaken in the process.

“I know Mayo didn’t expect this level of intensity from us, and they really hope that we go away, but are we going to go away?” asked fundraising committee chairman Al Arends, drawing a loud “No” from the audience.

“No community has risen to challenge giant Mayo like you people have,” he said, drawing applause from the audience. “That’s what makes Albert Lea such a great place to live in.”

Leaders will meet with a possible second provider Nov. 1.

Save Our Hospital second provider committee chairman Craig Ludtke said though the provider’s vision was originally smaller than they were hoping for, conversations to increase the plan are underway.

Despite numerous calls from lawmakers and community members, Mayo Clinic Health System has consistently refused to put a pause to the transition, saying doing so would put patients at risk due to a staffing crisis.

Mayo Clinic and the city of Albert Lea agreed to enter facilitated dialogue to discuss the transition, but the hospital system stated it would not decide to pause the transition during discussions.

The first part of the transition — the moving of the intensive care unit to Austin — is complete.

Inpatient surgeries are expected to move to Austin in January, and the behavioral health center will move from Austin to Albert Lea in 2019. Labor and delivery services will be the last to relocate to Austin in late 2019 or early 2020. 

Mayo Clinic Health System declined to comment on Save Our Hospital fundraising.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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