Albert Lea Braces For Hospital Services To Move

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Whether you’re looking for specialty care or the most basic hospital surgery, look no further than Minnesota for the best in the nation.

U.S. News and World Report puts the Mayo Clinic at the top of this year’s Honor Roll. It is the second year in a row for the Rochester-based hospital.

Mayo is followed by the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins.

The magazine looks at more than 5,000 medical facilities in the country to do its annual ranking.

But a fight in southeastern Minnesota is targeting Mayo Clinic and its plans to move some services miles away.

Some care from Mayo Clinic health system in Albert Lea will move to the Austin hospital starting in October, which is more than 20 miles away.

mayo clinic albert lea Albert Lea Braces For Hospital Services To Move

(credit: CBS)

In this city of more than 17,000, many consider the surprise summer announcement a medical emergency of its own.

Joel Erickson is a retired pastor in town who works with the group Save Our Hospital.

“We’re all blindsided by it,” Erickson said.

No city council or county commission vote, only a plan from Mayo to move intensive care, labor and delivery, and inpatient surgery to the hospital a half-hour east in Austin.

“Here’s an egg. We’re going to take the yolk and all the contents and we’re going to give you the egg shell,” Erickson said.

Save Our Hospital now meets weekly to fight back.

Mayo Clinic says 500 patients visit the Albert Lea hospital every day for things like doctor visits, dialysis and cancer care. That won’t change. It will for about seven patients per day.

But with a severe staffing shortage and a decline in hospitalizations, Mayo says it has no choice.

The Minnesota Rural Health Association points out what’s happening in Albert Lea is playing out across the country.

According to that organization, 80 critical access hospitals have closed in rural areas in the last seven years.

Seventy-eight remain open in Minnesota right now, but they’re all considered under stress since it’s simply hard to make the model and the money work anymore.

Healthcare experts blame Medicaid and Medicare cuts for the dwindling number of rural caregivers.

Still, Erickson says even smaller Minnesota cities have made it work.

“We don’t really accept that explanation, it just doesn’t make sense to us,” Erickson said.

The group will board buses and rally outside Mayo buildings in Rochester on Thursday.

Organizers tell WCCO they are also exploring trying to find a new medical provider if Mayo doesn’t reverse its decision to move its services.

More from Liz Collin
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