Mayo Clinic Consolidating Albert Lea, Austin Hospitals
Mayo Clinic plans to consolidate some of the inpatient services it provides at its Albert Lea hospital, such as childbirth and major surgeries, into its smaller Austin facility.
The Rochester-based health care nonprofit announced the move on Monday, citing staffing shortages, shrinking reimbursements and the rising cost of care as reason for the restructure.
“It’s no longer feasible to duplicate some of our most complex and expensive health care services in neighboring communities,” Bobbie Gostout, Mayo’s vice president, said in a statement. “We are navigating challenging times in health care, so we are taking proactive steps to adjust the services offered on each campus.”
An expansion of Mayo’s Austin campus will be required to keep up with demand in the area. Currently, the Austin hospital has 69 beds, 95 doctors and 143 nurses, according to data from U.S. News and World Report. Last year, nearly 31,000 patients visited the hospital’s emergency room, of which more than 4,400 were admitted.
Comparatively, 73 doctors and 155 nurses are employed in Albert Lea. The hospital has 129 beds and reported about 3,800 admissions last year from about 47,500 patient visits to its emergency room.
Mayo did not note the scale of the Austin expansion, but said it would “probably [take] several years” to increase the number of hospital rooms and the size of its intensive care unit, among other things.
According to Mayo, less than 5 percent of the patient visits at Albert Lea required inpatient services.
“We are at the very beginning of the implementation process,” Dr. Mark Ciota, CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, said in a statement. “The work we are doing will require change for our staff, patients and community partners, and we realize change is hard for everyone. But these changes are necessary in order to keep health care close to home and available for present and future generations.”
With consolidation plans in the early stages, it’s uncertain how much additional staff will be required in Austin and whether those new hires will come from Albert Lea’s facility.
In a statement, the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) said it was “very concerned” about how the elimination of in-patient services in Albert Lea could “disrupt patient care and cost the community hundreds of jobs.”
“Albert Lea residents are losing their community hospital and will have to travel long distances for the quality health care they now enjoy close to home,” said Kathy Lehman, spokeswoman for MNA’s Albert Lea branch.
Dr. Ciota of Mayo noted that most people receive inpatient services only a few times in their life. “When and if they do, top quality hospital and surgical care will still be available close to home [in Austin], within 30 minutes for most patients,” he said.
While nurses in the Albert Lea-Austin area review Mayo’s plan, MNA president Mary Turner said they would “push for changes” if necessary.
Mayo’s expansion spree
Mayo’s list of renovation and expansion efforts has grown steadily since the start of the year.
Aside from the ongoing work related to the $20 million Destination Medical Center project in Rochester, the health care organization said in March it would spend $458 million to modernize and grow its existing facilities in Mankato, Rochester and in Florida.
A month later, Mayo said it would nearly double its presence in Mayo Clinic Square, the site formerly known as Block E that sits across the street from Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. The cost to expand its facility, which functions as a sports medicine and primary care center, was not disclosed.