Guest Column: Healthcare coalition — What you’re giving to

Published 10:52 pm Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Guest Column by Brad Arends

Brad Arends


The Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition has been organized under a single purpose — to provide affordable high-quality health care to the citizens of Albert Lea and the surrounding area.  The five-step business plan for this was actually put together by an outside consulting firm that was hired and paid for by Save Our Healthcare to help us regain some control of the health care services that are provided in our community, and eventually restore services that have been removed by Mayo.

Email newsletter signup

ALHC has been established and blessed by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity governed by 10 volunteer nonpaid trustees who have set forth the following core values as guiding principals to operate under:

1. Community focused: Our mission centers solely on the health care of the citizens of Albert Lea and the surrounding area, and is not for the benefit of any given health care provider.

2. Integrity: We are going to avoid conflicts of interest at all cost.  For example, we will not have representation by MercyOne or any other health care provider on our Board of Trustees.

3. Respectful: We will treat our citizens and community with dignity and respect.  Our goal is to be a model corporate citizen.

4. Transparent: We need to earn and retain your trust, and this can only be achieved by being forthright.

5. Collaborative: Together — citizens, city, county, MercyOne and ALHC — we will build and operate a facility that provides affordable high-quality health care

We have entered into a letter of intent to purchase the Herberger’s building for $850,000 from the owners of Northbridge Mall.  This money will come from a single donor who was a former graduate of Albert Lea High School, and who will be present at the official closing of the transaction.  It is important that ALHC own this building, as this gives us the ability to continually negotiate both the health care services provided and their costs — something we definitely do not have today.

We also have a letter of intent with MercyOne North Iowa to help us build and operate a full-service clinic and outpatient surgery center.  According to our outside consultant, we must first build and support these core services before we can restore labor and delivery and inpatient surgery and hospital services.  On the positive side, these clinic and outpatient surgery services should be significantly less expensive than what we are currently paying, and this is a major reason why you are seeing many of our local employers like U.S. Bank, Mrs. Gerry’s, Select Foods, Innovance, Crossroads Trailer, Agilis, Security Insurance, Minnesota Freezer Warehouse, Independent Service Company, Schipp’s Pro Wash, Morris Furniture, Good Steward, Dieser Manscow, intellicents, MotorInn and Albert Lea Seed House supporting this financially. 

The key to the success of our new health care clinic and outpatient surgery center is actually you. We must first raise enough money to buy and build it step by step. We have to raise this money now for the first two phases, and we are doing it primarily through one-time donations and three-year pledges from businesses and individuals. To date we have raised $1,270,000 from 44 local businesses, $455,000 from 285 local individuals, $30,000 from a local foundation, $1,000,000 from our big donor, and $900,000 from MercyOne for the buildout and another $1,100,000 for furnishings and equipment; but we have a ways to go to meet our goal so contributions of all sizes are welcome and important. With a goal of opening next fall with initially close to 14,000 square feet, urgent care services, seven specialist physicians and six primary care professionals, we are confident that, together with our partner MercyOne, we are building a high-quality, lower-cost health care option. 

The second key to its success is your patronage to our new clinic. Our business plan hinges on patient load. In a nutshell, we must prove that the citizens of Albert Lea and the surrounding area will actually go to a high-quality, less expensive non-Mayo facility.

We have this one shot to get this done. The Twin Cities have drastically lower health care costs than we do because they have competition. We need competition in this town. If we are successful, Albert Lea should have the lowest cost of health care in southcentral and southeastern Minnesota and be a model for the rest of the country — a huge economic benefit to our citizens, businesses and the city of Albert Lea.

If we don’t do it, we will forever be held hostage by the exorbitant cost of Mayo for our health care, and truly be yet another victim of the plight facing rural health care in America today. I say “not in our town!”   

The choice is ours.

Brad Arends is president of the Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition.