Tensions are still simmering over the future of a southern Minnesota hospital, but Albert Lea city leaders and Mayo Clinic officials merit praise for agreeing to a pragmatic step: a mediation-like process known as “facilitated dialogue.”
After months of bitter back-and-forth over Mayo’s decision to move some critical hospital services to nearby Austin, having both sides sit down in a setting presided over by retired Judge David Minge is movement in the right direction. The process isn’t designed to lead to a decision by Minge favoring one side or the other, but instead to yield a productive conversation and improved working relationship.
The situation in Albert Lea has shown no sign of calming down, so the talks, which could begin in the coming week, are timely and necessary. In June, Mayo announced that it is moving key hospital services out of the Albert Lea hospital to a facility in Austin. Mayo’s lack of communication with the city, which this page previously criticized, helped fuel anger and mistrust.
The region’s U.S. House Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who is now running for governor, deserves credit for shepherding the dialogue process along. Walz previously helped set up mediation to resolve a dispute between staff and management at the St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Medical Center. His instincts that a similar process is needed in Albert Lea are spot on and a welcome example of political problem-solving.
Minge’s involvement also inspires confidence. The retired judge and former U.S. House representative is known as a clear thinker and a steady hand.
Mayo and Albert Lea should embrace the opportunity before them. The dispute continues to be a public relations black eye for the Rochester-based health system. The fight over the hospital is also a distraction and an expense for the city of Albert Lea.
It’s time for a resolution that both sides can live with.