Mayo reducing clinic hours in Alden and Kiester

Published 10:57 pm Thursday, November 1, 2018

Locations will no longer have on-site practitioners in January


Mayo Clinic Health System-owned clinics in Alden and Kiester will no longer have on-site practitioners after Jan. 1.

The clinics are transitioning to being open one day per week. The Alden clinic has transitioned to being open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays, while the Kiester clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. one day a week Mondays beginning Nov. 19. Those hours will last through the end of December.

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The two-room Kiester clinic is now open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesdays.

The four-room Alden clinic used to be open from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

The clinics offer general care and blood work for aging patients who need help keeping track of medical conditions, such as diabetes and iron content issues.

A community meeting with the hospital system and Kiester community leaders took place Monday night at Kee Theater. A similar meeting in Alden was two weeks ago. Hospital officials plan to continue meeting with the communities during the process.

The announcement came after longtime Kiester certified nurse practitioner Lanice Engebretson announced her retirement effective Nov. 16.

Kiester Mayor Doug Trytten said the meeting was meant to inform Kiester officials on health care alternatives Mayo Clinic Health System could provide after Jan. 1, such as patient video kiosks. He said he is evaluating the possibility of bringing in another health care provider.

“That isn’t going to work too good for our community, because we are pretty technology illiterate,” Trytten said.

“Our community is very upset about all of this. I’m checking into other options.”

Jay Mitchell, southeast Minnesota regional chairman of outpatient practice for Mayo Clinic Health System, said he understands the desire to have local health care services and pledged to work with them to achieve that goal.

He raised the possibility of hospital system staff or volunteers helping patients access the kiosk system, which could be in place in the clinic buildings.

The hospital system is evaluating whether there will still be staff members at the clinics after Jan. 1 by engaging with Alden and Kiester to understand their needs.

Trytten said the Kiester area has an aging population with limited transportation options.

He noted the city owns the clinic building at 120 N. Main St and will not let it be empty. He said the city needs to have a health care facility in town so residents do not have to travel to other places for services.

Mitchell said on a typical day, Kiester and Alden clinics feature a nurse, desk worker and sometimes a lab technician. 

Nurses and other support staff members at the two clinics have been notified of the changes and are expected to be able to move to open positions in other Mayo Clinic Health System clinics in surrounding communities or Albert Lea. No job losses will occur with the changes, according to the hospital system.

Mayo Clinic Health System cited difficulty in attracting recruiters as a reason for the move, an issue also cited as a motivating factor for its transition of most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin.

“The employment changes with our smaller clinic providers mean we need to take a fresh look at how we can best provide care to patients across our service,” Mitchell said. “As we shared in meetings with our local communities last summer, significant challenges in recruiting are common in rural areas across the country, and we are currently facing it here.

“And it’s not just the nurse practitioners and other providers — we have not been able to fill a number of open positions for nurses, lab techs and other important support positions.”

Trytten said Mayo Clinic Health System’s explanation of a staffing shortage is not enough reason to no longer provide an on-site nurse.

“I can’t totally buy that concept, because there’s always people looking for work — even med students or nurse practitioners,” he said. “I think it’s more to do with their contraction of their businesses so they can focus more on Rochester.”

According to the hospital system, patients whose providers were relocating or retiring received letters with options for continuing their care with Mayo Clinic Health System. They were also informed about non-traditional care options such as the 24/7 nurse line, Express Care clinics and Express Care online, which the hospital system said allows patients to submit symptoms or requests online and receive treatment — including prescriptions — at home.

The hospital system added certified nurse practitioner Allison Berg Heinemann Wednesday to work alongside Steve Wiese and visit certain skilled nursing facilities across southeast Minnesota to provide medical supervision and care.

Heinemann is expected to assist in staffing at Alden and Kiester clinics until January.

“This model has been very successful in other parts of the region,” Heinemann said last month in a press release. “As a provider who specializes in geriatric care, I will be able to develop relationships with the patients and staff, and of course it is much more convenient for older adults to be visited by the provider than to have the patient travel to an office visit.”

Heinemann was the provider for the Mayo Clinic Health System clinic in New Richland. Certified nurse practitioner Wendy Cadwell Trihus, who used to be the provider at the Wells clinic, became the New Richland provider Thursday. Certified nurse practitioner Heather Obermeyer, who used to be the provider at the Alden clinic, moved to the Wells clinic Thursday. 

Changes to clinic hours in New Richland, Wells and Lake Mills are not expected.

“Patient data shows that more than half of the patients using the Alden and Kiester clinics come from other communities — places such as Wells, New Richland and Albert Lea, where health system clinics are available to meet their needs,” Mitchell said. “Based on the number of patients who actually live in the Alden and Kiester service areas, operating the clinics one day per week will provide adequate appointments to meet the needs of the local community members.”

About Sam Wilmes

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

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