Mayo: Transition of ICU to Austin a success

Published 11:17 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fewer than 1 patient per day has been transferred from Albert Lea

Mayo Clinic Health System’s transition of Albert Lea’s inpatient care unit to Austin about two weeks ago has gone “very well,” said the health system’s associate administrator, Kristin Johnson.

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There are about six patients daily in the ICU in Austin, and fewer than one patient per day is taken from Albert Lea to the ICU in Austin, Johnson said.

She credited the success of the transition to the effort hospital staff made and said patients have expressed satisfaction with how the transition has gone.

The moving of the ICU was the first part of Mayo Clinic Health System’s planned transition of most inpatient services to Austin. 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.

Electronic medical records are shared between Albert Lea and Austin campuses, meaning patients who are taken from Albert Lea to Austin have readily-available data on their medical history, according to the hospital.

Johnson said low patient levels at the two campuses made it difficult for Mayo Clinic Health System to adequately staff both facilities.

Support departments, unit staff nurses and physicians were involved with the transition, and the “vast majority” of patients will not see a change because of the transition, Johnson said.

Both Albert Lea and Austin campuses will continue to provide emergency room, primary and specialty care, pregnancy care, and lab, pharmacy and other services.

Albert Lea-Save Our Hospital Co-Chairman Brad Arends said despite the departure of the ICU to Austin, the organization remains committed to keeping a full-service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea.

He said though Save Our Hospital tried meeting its goals with Mayo Clinic Health System since June, it is now clear the hospital system will not budge from the transition.

The city of Albert Lea signed a contract earlier this month with national health care consulting firm Quorum Health Resources LLC to evaluate the long-term feasibility of the Albert Lea hospital.

Arends hopes the study is finished within a month and said the results will serve as a business plan for a full-service, acute-care provider other than Mayo Clinic Health System to enter the community. The maximum $75,000 contract is evenly split between the city, Freeborn County and Save Our Hospital organization.

Almost all of the 19 Albert Lea nurses who were impacted by the moving of the ICU decided to stay in the Albert Lea, said Mayo Clinic Health System spokeswoman Mandie Siems, while a few other nurses decided to leave the organization.

“There were available positions on the Albert Lea and Austin campuses to accommodate any and all of the impacted nurses who wished to stay with Mayo,” she said.

Johnson said best practices applied by the hospital ensured the transition would go well.

Arends said 150 people attended Sunday’s weekly Save Our Hospital meeting at the American Legion, and called the organization “still very organized and energized.”

Save Our Hospital held a planning session Saturday at Country Inn & Suites to discuss the organization’s goals through 2018.

Arends expressed concern over the approach Mayo Clinic Health System has taken with the community and that Albert Lea would see negative impacts similar to what other communities have faced from the hospital system transitioning services.

The Fairmont community has expressed concern that staffing levels have decreased at the hospital in the community and services have been transitioned to Mankato since Mayo Clinic Health System took over the hospital.

“I think that Mayo is hoping that we’re done,” Arends said. “We are not done.”

About Sam Wilmes

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

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