Mayo official says hospital consolidation plan not motivated by short-term profits
Dr. Annie Sadosty, regional vice president for Mayo Clinic Health System’s Southeast Minnesota Region, wrote a column in the Post-Bulletin saying the organization’s plan to consolidate the services of two hospitals is part of a long-range plan to improve rural health. “It is not motivated by, nor is it expected to achieve, short-term profits,” she wrote.
Sadosty said a multi-disciplinary team of staff from the Albert Lea and Austin, Minn., facilities studied the issue for more than 18 months before recommending the consolidation plan. “These conversations all point to a common goal: preserving the availability of healthcare in rural communities for current and future generations,” she said.
Mayo Clinic has faced significant public backlash from the communities affected by the consolidation move, including public officials calling for an examination of the plan with anti-trust concerns in mind.
Mayo's plan involves moving maternity care, emergency care, overnight hospitalizations and inpatient surgeries from its Albert Lea facility to its Austin facility 25 miles away. The plan sparked protests in the region, but Sadosty said it is about achieving long-term sustainability for healthcare in the area. “Detractors are quick to accuse Mayo of doing this to increase profits. In fact, transitioning these services requires the investment of millions of dollars in remodeling and retooling our processes," she wrote in the column.
Mayo’s plan reflects how the major healthcare system is facing the same dilemma affecting other rural and community health systems. Like most hospitals, it is dealing with less inpatient utilization and lower reimbursements, but it has the added issues that particularly affect rural facilities, such as hiring and retaining physicians. More than 80 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and a recent study found hundreds more are vulnerable to shutting their doors for good.
In response, rural systems are doing what they can to stay open, including merging companies, like Carolinas HealthCare and UNC Health, consolidating like Mayo or even cutting services.
Merging services can reduce costs for a health system, but a community sees it as losing services. Sadosty said Mayo Clinic is not cutting back, but actually investing in the Albert Lea facility, including $720,000 to improve cancer care, which will include new imaging equipment and improvements to the facility for behavioral health and addiction services, $2.75 million for a new cooling system and $600,000 for a new CT scanner.
Those are all likely welcomed improvements, but Mayo Clinic will still need to work with residents and community leaders of Albert Lea to make sure the transition is as painless as possible.
This is also not Mayo Clinic’s first public relations issue this year. CEO John Noseworthy faced criticism in March for telling employees the health system would prioritize patients with private insurance over those with Medicaid if they seek care at the same time for similar conditions. Noseworthy later backed away from those comments and said he shouldn't have used the word “prioritize.”
Mayo is once again in the position of defending itself as it seeks to explain its plan and communicate with the communities being affected.
- Post-Bulletin Mayo: Albert Lea decision can't be delayed
- Becker's Hospital Review Mayo executive: Consolidation plan in Albert Lea not expected to achieve short-term profits
- Star Tribune Albert Lea rises up against Mayo's plan to trim hospital services
- Healthcare Dive Residents protesting Mayo plan to consolidate 2 hospitals