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Mayo Clinic, Albert Lea agree to talk about local hospital's future

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Albert Lea Residents at a county commissioners meeting in July.
Residents attended a county commissioners meeting in Albert Lea this summer to address Mayo's decision to discontinue some services at the hospital there.
Catharine Richert | MPR News file

Albert Lea and the Mayo Clinic have agreed to sit down and talk about the future of the southern Minnesota city's Mayo-run hospital.

The city and Mayo have been at odds over Mayo's decision to move three major services — labor and delivery, intensive care and inpatient care — about a half hour away to Austin, Minn. Mayo plans to keep an emergency room and outpatient services in Albert Lea, and move behavioral health services there from Austin.

Mayo has argued the consolidation is needed because the Albert Lea and Austin campuses have racked up a combined $13 million operating loss the past two years. The plan, though, was roundly condemned this summer by Albert Lea leaders and citizens, and Gov. Mark Dayton expressed "serious concerns" about the move.

On Friday, Mayo and Albert Lea said they'd agreed to a "facilitated dialogue" led by former DFL Minnesota 2nd District U.S. Rep. David Minge. The hospital system, though, made it clear that it doesn't intend to change its plans.

"We're not going to revisit decisions," said Kathleen Harrington Mayo's chair of government relations and policy. "We're going to look at how we can go forward together, how Mayo can best provide health care to this community."

The city wants a better idea of how the changes Mayo is making will affect the city's economy, said Chad Adams, Albert Lee's city manager.

"We want to know, is there anything we can do to work together mitigating some of the impact with the changes they are proposing potentially modifying their decision or delaying it," Adams said.

The city has also hired a consultant to figure out if the Albert Lea hospital is financially viable without Mayo's involvement.

The Mayo Clinic said in a statement with the city that it has "a responsibility to the communities we serve to engage in constructive communication going forward."

The discussions are voluntary and non-binding. The city and Mayo will split the costs associated with the discussions, according to a statement released by Minnesota 1st District DFL U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.