The following editorial appeared in the Rochester Post-Bulletin.
There are good reasons to criticize how Mayo Clinic has handled its plans for phasing out inpatient hospital care in Albert Lea. Destination Medical Center is not one of them.
It’s ridiculous for Gov. Mark Dayton, legislators and other public officials to whack Mayo with DMC whenever they disagree with the clinic on decisions large and small that have little or nothing to do with DMC.
When Mayo announced last year that it would change its food service vendor, it was lambasted by critics, primarily union activists, who cited DMC. “The Mayo Clinic has been asking for tens of millions of dollars from the state with the pitch it will help bring ‘good jobs’ to Rochester, but now they are talking about moving hundreds of good jobs to a less stable sub-contractor to help increase their profits,” said the president of the union local, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
No matter that Mayo doesn’t receive a penny from DMC — the unfair implication that Mayo “has been asking for tens of millions of dollars from the state” gets the job done for critics.
DFL legislators quickly chimed in. Rep. Mike Nelson, a DFLer from Brooklyn Park, told the Post Bulletin, “This whole thing stinks to me.” According to the PB story, he said Mayo’s actions regarding the food service vendor contradicted promises made when the Destination Medical Center initiative was approved by the Legislature in 2013.
Albert Lea fiasco
That protocol has been repeated in the dispute over the Mayo Clinic Health System clinic in Wabasha and now in Albert Lea, where MCHS announced plans to move about 20 inpatient beds to Austin, while growing other programs in Albert Lea. The community is understandably concerned; Mayo clearly failed to involve community leaders in advance and explain why the change is necessary. It’s been a textbook case of how not to proceed with a major hospital change in a small city.
Linking that decision to DMC, however, is over the top. In Albert Lea, it’s not only legislators who have referred to DMC in criticizing Mayo’s decision-making, it’s Dayton, whose lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, is chairwoman of the DMC Corp. board, and Attorney General Lori Swanson.
Among lawmakers who have most explicitly blasted Mayo by referring to DMC is District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks, of Austin: “I voted for the DMC funding and was very frustrated when the consolidation was announced. I did not expect expansion in Rochester and service reduction in Albert Lea. The DMC was advertised as good for the entire region — the decision to reduce services in Albert Lea appears like Mayo is going back on its word.”
That’s absurd and unfair. You can disagree with Mayo’s decisions, its regional strategy, even its taste in hospital food, but it’s ridiculous to invoke DMC and darkly hint that “Mayo is going back on its word” when it makes tough decisions regarding inpatient hospital care in Albert Lea.
Sparks’ comment also feeds the misperception that DMC is fueling Mayo expansion in Rochester while the clinic cuts services in places such as Albert Lea. Mayo’s challenge in the Albert Lea and Austin area is that it has two inpatient hospitals within 25 miles of each other. It has nothing to do with DMC and Rochester.