MN attorney general getting involved in fight over Mayo's decision to downsize Albert Lea clinic

Residents are worried about the potential loss of services.
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The state's highest authorities are stepping into an ongoing fight over the Mayo Clinic and its satellite hospital in Albert Lea, Minnesota. 

In short, Mayo recently upset a lot of people when it announced that it's ending some crucial services at said hospital, including the Intensive Care Unit and the childbirth ward.

And about 150 of those people showed up this month at Mayo's home base in Rochester, where they staged a protest against the controversial decision, the Austin Daily Herald reports

Their demonstration seems to have gotten the attention of the right people.

On Monday, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson will meet with officials in Freeborn County to discuss the situation, the Post Bulletin reports. The visit comes after a formal request for help from the county attorney, who is concerned whether Mayo's "past and ongoing business practices violate any state or federal laws."

Also on Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Tina Smith issued a joint statement on the controversy, saying they "have serious concerns about Mayo Clinic’s decision," and that Minnesotans in Albert Lea "deserve an open discussion" about the future of their hospital. 

Because, apparently, that never happened. 

Why it's a big deal

According to the Post Bulletin, as part of the deal that helped Mayo acquire that hospital in 1995, any disruption of "major medical services" would require a "supermajority vote" involving the board of directors at the Albert Lea campus, as well as the one in nearby Austin, Minnesota. 

"It's not believed that such a vote was ever held," the paper says. 

Mayo is consolidating Albert Lea's major hospital services into the Austin campus in a plan aimed at "preserving jobs and local health care" in both communities, the clinic says

According to a fact sheet put out by Mayo, they're doing it because of "challenges in today's health care landscape," including staff shortages (i.e. not enough doctors in the area), rising costs, lower demand for inpatient care, and "declining payments from insurers for our services."

The involvement of the attorney general's office may not be the lifeline residents were hoping for, though. According to ABC 6, the attorney general "can only view [the decision to end hospital services] from a standpoint of whether any laws are being broken."

The decision to downsize was announced in June. 

As the Star Tribune pointed out last month, local residents are concerned the consolidation will force them to drive farther away for crucial services, and possibly hurt Albert Lea's economic wellbeing. 

Also in July, the Albert Lea City Council voted to oppose Mayo's plan, the Tribune reported. 

Under the current timelines, the changes would start going into effect this October. 

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