Mayo Clinic Health System gearing up for construction on site

Published 5:45 pm Friday, May 3, 2024

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New park area expected to be dedicated late summer

Community members can expect the start of several projects in the coming months at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, including the installation of a park and commemorative garden space at the site of the former Naeve Hospital, a remodel of the Emergency Department and the relocation of services from HealthReach to the main campus.

Sumit Bhagra, site lead physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, said grading at the former Naeve Hospital site has already begun, and on Friday several excavators could be seen on the property.

Crews last year demolished the former hospital after Mayo officials said the building was no longer safe for occupation. It has not been used for patient care since 2016 due to concerns with the building’s age.

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Bhagra said plans are still in the works for a green space that includes clean features, including walk pathways and benches built from old bricks reclaimed from the site that they hope will speak to the heritage of the site.

The Naeve Hospital arch is in a fragile state, and he said they continue to consider options for display where the arch can be protected for the public to enjoy. They are working with Mayo Clinic history specialists who have made other displays in the past, as well as the health system’s community engagement staff on how to pay tribute to the site. There are plans to recognize the three different services that were provided at the site — the hospital, School of Nursing and Fountain Centers.

There will also be expanded parking closest to the front entrance with 29 parking stalls — nearly half of which will be handicap accessible, he said.

The health system is planning a dedication event of the park space for late summer or early fall for the community, when they plan to open a time capsule that was in the original Naeve Hospital building.

“We haven’t finalized that event but are looking forward to that,” Bhagra said.

Emergency Department remodel

Renovations in the Emergency Department are part of a multi-step, multi-year project Mayo kicked off in September 2022 that they refer to as the “Albert Lea Elevate” project. At that time they said it was going to be $14.9 million.

The first part of that project included the relocation of the center’s chemical dependency treatment program and outpatient behavioral health department to the second floor of the hospital, with an updated reception area and separate waiting spaces for outpatient behavioral health and Fountain Centers patients.

New office and treatment rooms were also made, including space for telehealth visits and pediatric appointments.

Next will be work in the emergency department, which will begin in early August with anticipated completion in the second quarter of 2025.

Bhagra said the remodel incorporates state-of-the-art design and technology, has a focus on safety and also incorporates built-in telehealth services, including tele-obstetrician services.

There are currently eight rooms in the emergency room, and the remodeled Emergency Department will have 13 total rooms, including seven general care rooms, three safe rooms for people with behavioral health concerns, two fast track or observation rooms and one triage room.

Overall, the rooms will be larger, with the rooms designed for trauma and the safe rooms being much larger.

There will be six additional rooms next to the Emergency Department that will allow patients with lower acuity needs to be seen by a provider working and be discharged much quicker, allowing the other providers to concentrate on the higher acuity patients.

“This model has shown shorter wait times and overall time in the ED when you divide up lower acuity from higher acuity patients, with a common triage point at the beginning of the visit to determine which area you are seen at,” the health system stated.

“The ED project is exciting for us,” said Eric Crockett, regional chair of administration for Mayo Clinic Health System in southeast Minnesota. “It will offer better connections for patients, a refreshed space — better flow and increased safety.”

Crockett said some of the current spaces aren’t providing the space necessary to accommodate modern equipment, and he thinks the new spaces will be a big benefit for not only patients, but staff as well.

Bhagra said there might be some traffic flow changes near the lab during the remodel, but otherwise there were are no major expansions or reductions planned for the lab.

Moving HealthReach services to the main campus

After the first phase of the Albert Lea Elevate project was complete, freeing up space on the main level of the main campus, health system officials thought about how beneficial it would be to have dialysis back onsite.

Bhagra said often patients utilizing dialysis are sick and may need hydration, bloodwork or other emergent care done.

Crockett said bringing dialysis patients back to the main site will give them quick access to the lab, radiology and other services.

“Our best work is done as an integrated medical team,” he said, noting they are looking forward to the efficiencies the move will create.

Crockett said construction for the new dialysis unit will begin later this summer and will take 10 to 12 months. While construction is taking place at the main campus, dialysis services will continue at the HealthReach site, all while Mayo will be actively marketing the sale of the building.

Bhagra said physical therapy at HealthReach will also be moved to the main site, and they have been bringing staff together to talk about needs for those services and to create the new space.

Bhagra said the renovations taking place at the Albert Lea main campus show the commitment Mayo Clinic has to the community and noted that most of the changes are being done to meet the needs of patients, with not only administrators but also physicians providing input.

“We are here for the community,” he said, noting that staff have a lot of pride every day they walk through their doors to come to work.

Crockett said it is the health system’s intent to post the properties for sale that aren’t directly contributing to clinical care.

The large parking lot owned by the health system at the former site of Albert Lea High School remains for sale, as does the former Bonnerup Building on Clark Street and the East Annex off of Fountain Street.