Freeborn County to request Mayo Clinic CEO, others attend next meeting

Published 8:47 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners, acting as the Community Health Board, plans to send a letter to top Mayo Clinic officials this week demanding answers regarding the hospital system’s transition of most inpatient services to Austin.

The letter, which could be sent to the Mayo Clinic board chairman, Chief Financial Officer Dennis Dahlen and CEO John Noseworthy this week, is expected to request they attend the board’s next meeting Oct. 2 to answer questions regarding the transition or submit their answers in writing.

The board’s letter will come approximately one week after the county notified the hospital system and the city it would no longer participate in facilitated dialogue sessions to discuss the transition, as commissioners take issue with what they said is lack of communication from Mayo. 

Sumit Bhagra, medical director of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin; and Kristin Johnson, associate administrator for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, presented an update on the transition of services and answered questions from commissioners during a Sept. 4 meeting.

Freeborn County Administrator Thomas Jensen said the top officials might be able to answer questions officials who attended the meeting earlier this month could not answer.

Board Chairman Chris Shoff expressed doubt Noseworthy will attend the Oct. 2 meeting and requested commissioners ask the hospital system why they are moving the birthing center to Austin.

“The likelihood of Dr. Noseworthy coming to one of our meetings is pretty much close to zero,” he said.

“It’s only an hour drive.”

District 2 Commissioner Dan Belshan asked if Mayo could be requested to pay the cost of overnight stays when Medicare does not cover the cost.

In a written statement after the meeting, Erin Sexton, director of enterprise community engagement for Mayo Clinic in Rochester, said the hospital system has “not received the reported request from the commissioners at this time but always (considers) these type of requests.”

“Our leadership team for the southeast Minnesota region appreciated the opportunity earlier this month to update the Board of Commissioners on several community engagement activities, provider recruitment and staffing updates, along with Mayo Clinic’s recent multi-million dollar investments in patient care at Mayo Clinic Health System locations in Albert Lea and Austin,” Sexton said. “We look forward to continued dialogue with members of the community on the best approach to maintain access to safe and affordable care for Albert Lea and Freeborn County residents.”

After the meeting, Belshan said he supports requesting Noseworthy attend the meeting.

“It’s always good to talk to the person that makes the decision,” he said.

Belshan questioned whether the board could sway Mayo’s decision-making based on the hospital system’s unwavering commitment to the transition, but said he was pleased they could speak with Mayo about transportation issues.

He said Mayo Clinic has improved its communication levels with county officials, adding the two groups need to work together to find a solution.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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