Local representatives have first facilitated dialogue with Mayo Clinic

Published 11:19 pm Friday, October 27, 2017

The first facilitated dialogue between Mayo Clinic Health System and local representatives to discuss the hospital system’s planned transition of most inpatient services to Austin was Wednesday.

The meeting included a “significant” number of questions that Mayo was forthcoming to, said facilitator David Minge, adding the discussion led him to believe there was potential local representatives could work together to address issues.

The meeting included Mayo representatives, and local representatives Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams, 1st Ward Councilor Rich Murray, Freeborn County Administrator Thomas Jensen and 5th District Commissioner Mike Lee. It took place after the entities agreed earlier this month to discuss the transition.

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Minge, a retired judge and former state representative, said it appeared Mayo would continue to respond to concerns regarding the transition, specifically that despite the Albert Lea hospital losing most inpatient services, ambulance rides outside the community would not cost Albert Lea residents more money and patients would not be subject to risky delays in wait times due to the increased distance for most inpatient services.

The hospital system stated it has a commitment to the Albert Lea area and plans to continue to invest in the community as the town’s largest private employer, Minge said.

Adams called the meeting “productive.”

“Everyone was respectful,” he said.

The meeting focused on high-level discussion with not a lot of details nor a consensus on a lot of topics, Adams said.

“We are starting to work towards how we are going to address some of the questions we have and such,” he said. “It was more of a conversation and getting back to the table.”

Minge said the entities agreed that continuing the dialogue would be worth the time investment.

Albert Lea and Mayo Clinic are expected to split the cost of services for the discussion, and the two entities plan to jointly decide on the scope of dialogue, issues to be covered, timeline, budget and other items regarding the plan to create conditions for solutions.

Delaying the rest of the transition was not discussed at Wednesday’s meeting, but discussion did focus on how decisions were made and implemented, Minge said, who noted the need for a longer planning process was addressed.

Local representatives reportedly offered to continue to partner with the hospital system to attract health care workers to the community. Mayo Clinic Health System has cited a shortage in physicians is putting patients at risk locally, making the transition a necessity.

The next bargaining date has not been scheduled.

Minge said Mayo Clinic and other organizations must take into account the identities Albert Lea and Austin residents have with their communities when making decisions that jointly affect the two communities.

Adams said in future meetings, local representatives will focus on answering a number of questions concerning the impact of the transition on local communities.

He said he is looking forward to having those questions answered and getting the information to the public.

Adams hopes the next meeting takes place in November.

A phone call to Mayo Clinic Health System regarding the transition was not returned.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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