A newly published consultant’s report that says the city of Albert Lea could support a full-service hospital has emboldened citizens there who are fighting a Mayo Clinic decision to reduce services.

The $75,000 report from Tennessee-based Quorum Health Resources said the city would face high costs, however, if it tried to build a new hospital or recruit a new health care provider to replace Mayo. It recommends pursuing those goals but also continuing talks with Mayo.

The report comes months after Mayo announced it would consolidate some health care services by moving them from Albert Lea to Austin, about 23 miles away. The move comes amid a long-term reduction of health care in rural America due to rising costs.

The Albert Lea and Austin hospitals lost about $13 million combined over the past two years, the Mayo Clinic said.

A grass-roots group fighting the change — Save Our Hospitals — and the local city government, along with Freeborn County, have asked Mayo officials to delay the consolidation that began this fall and continues in stages.

A mediation session in October between Mayo officials and city representatives presided over by retired Judge David Minge didn’t resolve differences.

Driving the city’s opposition to Mayo’s plans has been the assumption that the hospital’s reduction of some services would lead to a potentially devastating economic blow to the southeast Minnesota city located about 100 miles south of Minneapolis.

Local residents have packed the high school for rallies in support of keeping a full-service hospital in town and put up “Save Our Hospital” lawn signs in their front yards. The Save Our Hospital group has raised $107,000 for its fight so far, said a spokeswoman.

Four alternative health care providers are interested in moving to Albert Lea, according to the Save Our Hospital group. City Manager Chad Adams, meanwhile, said he’s hopeful that a parallel track of negotiation with Mayo will lead to another meeting before the end of the year.

“We’d like to have a very open dialogue about all of these options,” said Adams. He said the city and Save Our Hospital activists have been working in tandem. Now that the Quorum report is out, he said, the city is waiting to hear from local residents before deciding which route to pursue.

 

Twitter: @_mattmckinney