All Minnesotans should wish Dr. Gianrico Farrugia well as he steps up to lead the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. The Rochester medical center isn’t just an economic powerhouse vital to the state’s future; it’s where Minnesotans for generations have sent their loved ones when serious illness strikes.
While Mayo has navigated a turbulent era of reform well under outgoing CEO Dr. John Noseworthy, the pace of change is quickening in the health care industry, even at a medical destination with such a powerful brand name. Farrugia — a gastroenterologist and native of Malta who was named Noseworthy’s successor last week — has an impressive portfolio of management and medical accomplishments and appears well-prepared.
We hope that Farrugia recognizes that a critical, close-to-home task lies ahead of him — rebuilding trust among those served by Mayo’s clinics and hospitals in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Doubts about Mayo’s commitment to these 60-plus regional communities fester after its 2017 decision to shift key services from the Albert Lea, Minn., hospital to one in Austin, Minn.
Several other communities served by the network have also had services reduced. The tensions have not gone away despite aloof assurances from Mayo leaders that consolidation is necessary to achieve cost efficiencies. Nor do Mayo leaders’ mea culpas about mishandled communications assuage fears about having to drive elsewhere if a loved one is having a baby or needs hospital care.
During Noseworthy’s tenure, Mayo sought taxpayer support of its “Destination Medical Center” — a private-public partnership to make Rochester a more attractive destination for patients traveling from afar. The state stepped up in 2013, pledging $585 million to pay for public infrastructure (dollars don’t flow directly to the clinic) to help give Mayo a competitive edge.
But the small cities the Mayo network serves are competing economically, too. Having a full-service health care facility is critical to attract future employers and workers. A nonprofit health system like Mayo, especially one with deep financial resources, must broaden its vision to include the well-being of the communities it serves.
This week, Mayo won coveted industry recognition. U.S. News & World Report ranked it first in a list of America’s top hospitals, an honor in which Mayo bested perennial competitors Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins. Mayo has also posted impressive financials under Noseworthy. Its 2017 financial reports, released in February, showed a “49-percent increase in net income over the previous year, with the clinic earning $707 million on $11.99 billion in revenue,” according to a Feb. 20 Star Tribune story.
Farrugia needs to ensure that metrics measuring satisfaction with services provided on Mayo’s regional home turf are included and given priority in evaluations of the medical center’s overall performance. As he officially takes over after Noseworthy’s end-of-the-year retirement, Farrugia would do well to add “Community Care” to his already-daunting agenda and make clear to his talented staff that Mayo must do better.