Minnesota AG clears Mayo's consolidation plan for hospitals in Albert Lea, Austin

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced Monday her office will not file a lawsuit to intervene in Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic's consolidation of services between its hospitals in Austin and Albert Lea, Minn., according to the Post Bulletin.

Ms. Swanson's statement came in the form of a letter to Freeborn County Attorney David Walker, who had asked Ms. Swanson for her views on the situation. Ms. Swanson's office sent a letter to Mayo officials and Freeborn County and Albert Lea leaders Aug. 16 seeking information about the consolidation plan for the two facilities via 23 specific questions about governance issues and the decision-making process.

Less than a month later, Ms. Swanson said Monday that her office couldn't "file a lawsuit simply because a corporation that is abiding by the law undertakes an unpopular action." She specifically cleared Mayo of the antitrust concerns raised by Albert Lea community leaders and said the health system did not violate any nonprofit or charity laws. However, Ms. Swanson also said she would be ready to help Albert Lea and Freeborn County if they decide to seek alternative ownership for their hospital outside of Mayo.

The decision appears to clear the way for Mayo to move forward with its consolidation plans, which will begin Oct. 1 when the ICU will be consolidated in Austin. Other services will be transitioned during the following 18 months.

Mayo plans to move ICU, birthing and inpatient services from Albert Lea to its Austin location while transitioning Austin's behavioral health program to Albert Lea. The two hospitals are 23 miles apart. As a result, all inpatient services will be consolidated on the Austin campus, which will also continue to offer outpatient care. The Albert Lea campus will provide primary and specialty care, emergency care, pregnancy care and radiology as well as a lab, pharmacy, behavioral care, addiction services and other oft-used services.

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