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MercyOne North Iowa announces closure of sole Minnesota site

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | September 15, 2023
Business Affairs
MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center's Albert Lea clinic in Minnesota (Photo courtesy of MercyOne)
After two years of operation, MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center has announced that it will close the doors to Albert Lea clinic, its only site in Minnesota, at the end of December.

The health system, which opened the site in July 2021, informed the Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition, which owns the building, and Albert Lea's Mayor Rich Murray on August 30; saying that the pandemic, recruitment challenges, and differences in Minnesota regulations made running the clinic “unsurmountable,” and that it needed to “reduce costs and redistribute resources,” according to the Albert Lea Tribune.

For the past few weeks, the clinic has only had one family medicine provider working on a part-time basis, causing it to turn away new patients.

“These decisions are one part of an overall plan to address the economic realities of the fundamental shift in healthcare post-pandemic,” said MercyOne in a statement.

Staff learned about the closure when inquiring about recruitment efforts. While coalition trustees suggested possible solutions, the healthcare provider still opted to close shop.

It follows a similar decision made in June 2017 by Mayo Clinic Health System, which moved its inpatient surgery, childbirths, overnight hospital stays, and intensive care from Albert Lea to its Austin campus.

In response, residents formed a weekly group called Save Our Hospital, which evolved into the nonprofit Albert Lea HealthCare Coalition. The coalition eventually reached an agreement with MercyOne to take over and reopen the clinic at a new location.

The coalition trustees say they will contact other health groups who have shown interest in Albert Lea in the past, including providers from Mankato and Blue Earth in Minnesota. They also are talking with HealthPartners, which currently operates the clinic for the town school district and Freeborn County, and will hire healthcare legal counsel to review its contract with MercyOne.

“Yes, it’s a step back, but think of what we have in place. We have a finished clinic. It’s usable right now — and we have 5,000 unique patients,” Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition President Brad Arends told the Albert Lea Tribune.

Talks and listening sessions with residents are expected in the coming days and weeks to determine next steps.

The clinic is scheduled to close on December 31.

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