Walz: Mayo Clinic did not 'fully and proactively engage the Albert Lea community' in consolidation decision

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota is inserting himself into the debate over Mayo Clinic's plans to consolidate services between its hospitals in Albert Lea and Austin, Minn.

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo plans to consolidate inpatient surgeries, overnight hospitalization, maternity and intensive care in Albert Lea on the Austin campus.

Regarding these plans, Mr. Walz sent a letter to Mayo Clinic President and CEO John Noseworthy, MD, "on behalf of constituents concerned with the consequences of losing access to certain services Mayo provides in their hometown," according to a Tuesday announcement from the congressman.

Mr. Walz said he sent the letter after hearing from local officials, union leaders, First District constituents and other stakeholders. The letter also came after Mr. Walz's visit to the Albert Lea campus Monday.

"Mayo's failure to fully and proactively engage the Albert Lea community on this decision is disappointing," Mr. Walz wrote to Dr. Noseworthy. "Hospitals — like our schools and small businesses on Main Street — are the lifeblood of rural America and small towns. … I urge you to give my constituents' concerns and ideas your full and fair consideration. Please know that I stand ready to do whatever I can at the federal level to be a partner with you and the good people of Albert Lea in finding alternative and acceptable solutions."

Mayo responded to Mr. Walz's letter and visit in an emailed response to Becker's Hospital Review, saying, "We value open communication with Congressman Walz on a wide range of issues."

The clinic added, "We appreciate his visit to our Albert Lea campus on Monday to see firsthand the challenges Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin — like all rural hospitals across Minnesota and the nation — are facing regarding recruitment and retention of physicians and the dramatic impact of the change in health care from inpatient care to outpatient care delivery."  

As far as the letter, Mayo said Mr. Walz "reaffirmed his appreciation of the work of Mayo Clinic and our dedicated employees, and reinforced his 'long and frank working relationship' with Mayo. We respect and value Congressman Walz's service to all his constituents, and his engagement in the work ahead to strengthen rural healthcare."

Mayo added, "These are not easy issues. We believe that, as we work together with the people of Albert Lea, these changes will strengthen the Albert Lea campus and protect jobs. We are committed to work more closely with the community in facing the challenges of rural health care now and in the future. We are confident that patients will continue to have access to high-quality patient care in both Albert Lea and Austin, and that Mayo Clinic Health System will remain an integral contributor to the health and economic vitality of both communities."

In the meantime, Freeborn County Attorney David Walker said he has contacted the Minnesota Attorney General's Office regarding potential antitrust concerns related to the organization's planned consolidation between the Albert Lea and Austin campuses, according to a Post-Bulletin report.


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