Letter: City doing what it can to create health care options

Published 8:26 pm Thursday, September 27, 2018

One of the biggest challenges facing our city is rural health care and how it will be administered. Just like manufacturing, retail and financial services, health care is changing and changing quickly. In rural Minnesota, we are seeing that change faster than other locations. In Albert Lea, these changes have created some challenges for our community. How we face these challenges will define our future.

During the last mayoral forum, there was a comment that, “the silence from the mayor is deafening” regarding rural health care. The goal of this letter is to set the record straight regarding that comment.

Just like you, I don’t always agree with everything my employer does or how they do it, nor do I have any control of their business decisions. I am a full-time physical therapist, committed to helping people get better. I would never do anything to harm the citizens or the city of Albert Lea.

There may be a misperception that because I have had to recuse myself from public discussions, it means the City Council and city staff are forced to be silent as well. That’s simply false and unfair to all those who are actively addressing the health care issue.

I am 100 percent committed to doing what’s best for Albert Lea. I always have been and always will be.

I will share with you what we, as a city, are doing to address the health care situation in Albert Lea.

The City Council has directed city staff to work very closely with all organizations that are trying to improve our community — especially as it relates to health care. Staff and/or councilors have attended nearly every Save Our Healthcare meeting since its inception. They work closely with the Save Our Healthcare Steering Committee and attend additional meetings as requested. Recently, I have also attended the meetings.

As mayor, I serve on the ALEDA board, which looks to recruit and expand businesses for our city. ALEDA has been actively engaged in the discussions and is exploring future opportunities regarding health care options in Albert Lea.

Unlike a governor or president who has veto power, a mayor does not have the power to independently make decisions for the city. Rather, the mayor’s role is to provide leadership, build partnerships and help set priorities. The mayor has one vote of seven on the City Council and needs to work with all the councilors to set our path. As mayor, I have helped build numerous partnerships and continue to work with the City Council to provide direction for the city, including direction related to health care.

Health care is changing in Albert Lea. Our City Council, staff and many amazing volunteers are leading us through those changes that have been forced upon us, and they are looking to build other health care opportunities. While I am not publicly praising or attacking anyone for our health care situation, please know that the city, at the direction of the City Council, is doing everything it can to create exceptional health care options for its citizens.

Vern Rasmussen Jr.

Albert Lea