- The Mayo Clinic is facing considerable criticism from residents of Albert Lea, Minnesota, for its decision to consolidate services at the hospital there with one 25 miles away in Austin, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
- Public officials and residents of Albert Lea, who will be losing the close access to maternity and emergency care, as well as overnight hospitalizations and inpatient surgeries, say they were blindsided by the health system’s announcement in June.
- A handful of Minnesota lawmakers say Mayo misled them as legislators approved $585 million in public funding to support the system's planned Destination Medical Center, a mixed-use development project set to be built near Mayo’s headquarters in downtown Rochester, Minnesota. Public officials speculate the project is drawing resources from elsewhere in the company and is partly responsible for the recent consolidation.
Mayo Clinic officials must have been happy to get some good news Tuesday when they were once again named the country’s top hospital by U.S. News, because their feet are being held to the fire elsewhere.
A county attorney in the area, David Walker, says he is reviewing whether Mayo violated its bylaws by not putting the consolidation to a vote of its board. Walker has also said he is in contact with the Minnesota attorney general about potential anti-trust concerns.
The possible legal challenges are a long shot for opponents of the consolidation, which seems to be forging ahead, but Mayo may be smarting from the public relations damage.
Residents of Albert Lea have formed a Save Our Hospital organization to hold demonstrations. A local retired doctor recently told Minnesota Public Radio that Mayo didn't follow through on a lot of promises to the community when it purchased the hospital in the 1990s, “which is one reason why people are so upset about what’s happening now.”
This isn't the only recent controversy for Mayo, either. CEO John Noseworthy was heavily criticized this 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. He later walked back the comment and said "prioritize" wasn't the word he should have used.
Regardless of the concerns around community relations and transparency, the problems Mayo is attributing the consolidation to are very real for health systems across the country. Decreasing patient volume, lower reimbursements and more services transitioning to outpatient settings are prompting many hospitals to make tough decisions about M&A, consolidation, cutting services and employee layoffs.
Rural hospitals face the additional challenge of physician recruitment and retention. It can be difficult to convince freshly minted doctors to agree to locate in a small town or go to work for a hospital with a small staff and frequent night shift assignments.
Hospitals of all sizes are no strangers to anti-trust questions being raised when they attempt to merge or consolidate. Two competing systems in the Appalachian region are currently looking complete a merger while avoiding Federal Trade Commission oversight by using a different legal avenue.