Medical and surgical unit transitions to Austin

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2019

Residents gather to mark consolidation of services


The inpatient medical and surgical care unit served its last patient at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea Wednesday.

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The services are consolidating this week to the health system’s Austin campus as part of a consolidation of services that began in 2017 between the two campuses.

“It’s a sad day for Albert Lea,” said Albert Lean Dave Karge, a member of the Save Our Healthcare grassroots organization that gathered Wednesday at New Denmark Park. About 40 people met at the park, and several members of the group walked up to the hospital carrying signs to mark the loss of the service in Albert Lea before returning to the park.

LouAnn Stoen of Albert Lea said she worked full-time in the medical and surgical care unit for about 35 years until 2014.

“My heart has been so heavy,” Stoen said.

She said she has been going through a grieving process of sorts since finding out the services would be transitioning. Her focus recently has been trying to support her friends who still worked there.

A Mayo Clinic Health System press release stated consolidating medical and surgical care onto the Austin campus will allow the medical center to keep one unit fully staffed compared to having two separate units minimally staffed. It will also allow higher levels of care in a larger, state-of-the-art unit, the health system said.

“By transitioning medical and surgical hospitalizations onto one campus, we’ll be able to care for sicker patients more often locally, which will help reduce the need for transfers to Rochester or elsewhere for care,” said Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin. “We’ll also be able to invest more in the latest technology and equipment because we won’t be staffing and equipping two identical units in neighboring communities.”

The Austin unit currently has 12 newly remodeled private rooms available for patient care, along with existing semi-private rooms. When remodeling of the entire unit is completed in mid-2020, there will be 37 private rooms and two semi-private rooms that can serve 41 patients.

Lori Routh, nurse administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, said remodeling will occur in phases to allow the unit to keep as many rooms in service as possible during construction.

Ciota said all the staff who worked in the unit in Albert Lea have a job moving forward — some went outside of Mayo and many stayed inside of the Mayo organization and took different positions. He noted eight nurses from Albert Lea will continue in the same capacity in Austin.

The press release stated the medical and surgical care unit in Austin will have three providers at all times versus one previously in Albert Lea and two in Austin.

The move is one of the final pieces to take place in the transition of services between the two campuses.

The intensive care unit moved in October 2017 from Albert Lea to Austin, and the inpatient behavioral health unit moved from Austin to Albert Lea last fall.

Ciota said it should be determined in the next month when labor and delivery services will move from Albert Lea to Austin, though it is likely to take place this year because of physician and nursing staffing shortages.

Ciota, who also works as an orthopedic doctor, said it has been a challenging week for employees and the community.

“Yesterday I was up on the second floor,” Ciota said. “It was a very emotional, a very sad time for those of us that live in Albert Lea and spent our careers there.”

He said though he and the other staff have been asked to provide the best experience possible for Albert Lea patients who need hospitalization at the Austin campus, it doesn’t diminish the emotions felt this week.

The Albert Lea campus continues to provide emergency services, outpatient surgeries, clinic visits, care during pregnancy and after delivery and pharmacy and lab services, among others.

Ciota said if people need emergency care, they should continue to go to the emergency room in Albert Lea as they have done in the past. If they need to be hospitalized and require an ambulance, they will be transferred to the Austin campus at no cost to the patient.