If a patient needs to be transferred by ambulance between the Albert Lea and Austin campuses, will the patient be billed for the ambulance ride?
No, patients will be transferred between our two campuses at no cost. Mayo Clinic Health System is obtaining an exemption from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) current billing regulations so we can waive these costs for patients. It is our intention to continue to cover the cost of transfers between the Albert Lea and Austin campuses as permitted by CMS regulations that govern ambulance charges, and we will adapt as necessary if regulations change in the future.
What will continue to be offered on both campuses?
Both the Albert Lea and Austin campuses will continue to offer the vast majority (more than 95 percent) of the services our patients use on a regular basis, including emergency room care, primary and specialty care, pregnancy care, cancer care, outpatient (same-day) surgeries and procedures and services such as lab, radiology and pharmacy.
Are these changes just a way to transfer more patients closer to Rochester/Mayo Clinic?
Actually, that's the opposite of our intent. Our goal is to keep more patients close to home and avoid unnecessary transfers to Rochester. In order to do that, we have to optimize the services that we do have in the local community. Maintaining two identical hospitals in neighboring communities means we must have 24/7 staffing for two ICUs, two inpatient medical/surgical units, anesthesia and surgical teams at both locations, etc. With today's national provider shortage, we are sometimes unable to keep both hospitals fully staffed, and we end up having to transfer patients to Rochester. That is not acceptable to our patients, or to us.
Will childbirth services (labor and delivery) only be available on one of the campuses?
Yes, over time, all childbirth services will eventually transition to Austin.
- Research has shown that mothers and babies have better outcomes in higher-volume labor and delivery units where staff members' skills are kept sharp by doing more, and more complex, deliveries.
- The volumes at the separate units in Albert Lea and Austin are relatively small. Combining the two separate units into one will lead to an optimal situation for both patients and staff.
- A single, larger labor and delivery unit may allow for additional services to be offered, such as a midwife program and enhanced nursery options, and creation of a state-of-the-art birth center that provides a top-notch patient experience for families.
- It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and retain enough OB providers and nurses to staff two labor and delivery units so close together. Consolidating to a single birthing unit will lessen the call burden and help us to stabilize our staffing so we can continue to offer deliveries and post-partum care close to home for our patients.
What is the economic impact to Albert Lea if inpatient care, and the staff who deliver that care, moves to Austin?
Our work focuses on preserving long-term affordability and viability in both communities. In order to keep the most-used care available in both communities, we need to reduce duplication. As health care organizations across the country are discovering, it's no longer feasible to duplicate hospital services in neighboring communities. Organizations that fail to respond to the changing health care environment often end up closing entire facilities. By proactively making these changes now, we are preserving jobs and local health care in both Albert Lea and Austin.
How will the changes in services impact patients?
By adjusting our services across both campuses, we'll be able to offer higher levels of care to patients in larger, state-of-the-art units. We'll be able to invest more in the latest technology and equipment because we won't be staffing and equipping two identical units in neighboring communities. This will lead to higher staff satisfaction, as our talented providers, nurses and other staff are able to care for more complex patients and have fewer nights on call. This should help us reduce staff turnover, which results in more continuity of care for our patients.
Will there be transportation for patients who will need to travel to a different campus for care?
We are looking to determine if there might be additional options that could be offered. It's important to remember that the outpatient (clinic-based) care that most people use regularly will remain available on both campuses, so there will be no change in transportation needs.
Will the cost of these changes be passed on to the patient/consumer?
While we have no control over some costs for patients, such as insurance premiums and deductibles and co-pays, we are committed to delivering high-quality care as efficiently as we can in order to keep care as affordable as possible. Being careful stewards of our resources is part of that commitment. The long-term goal of these changes is to maintain a sustainable system of care in the Albert Lea and Austin area, where health care will be both available and affordable for patients. Maintaining two fully staffed and equipped hospitals in neighboring communities is becoming increasingly difficult due to costs, a nationwide provider shortage and declining payments from insurers for our services.
Was the hospital in Albert Lea not sustainable?
This hospital has a rich history, going all the way back to its beginnings as Naeve Hospital. Throughout that time, the hospital has adjusted to respond to changes in the community and health care, overall. Those changes continue and we need to proactively address them.
The staff of the Albert Lea hospital, and the care they provide, is second to none. We don't want anyone to think that there is a problem with the care being provided here. What is unsustainable is having two fully staffed hospitals fewer than 25 miles apart. In today's environment of declining payments from insurers and critical staffing shortages, that model does not work from a staffing standpoint or a financial standpoint. What works is to create larger units and make the best use of all the staff available, and to keep the majority of services used on a regular basis available on both campuses. We are absolutely sincere when we say that 95 percent of the care you use most often will remain in Albert Lea, and you'll continue to visit your doctors, be seen in the emergency room and come here for labs and X-rays without anything changing. If the time comes that you need a major surgery or a stay in the ICU, you'll be admitted to a unit just down the road with the latest technology, and cared for by our great team of staff from both Albert Lea and Austin.
Will there be staff layoffs and how many staff will be impacted by these changes?
We are very early in the implementation process, having just announced the changes. As we've already noted, we will continue to offer 95 percent of our services at both campuses, so many of our staff and patients will not see much change in their day-to-day experience. Flexibility will be needed as we transition our inpatient services to Austin, and some staff may have to consider changes in their primary location or roles to meet the needs of our patients. As much as possible, we will try to meet our staffing needs through voluntary transfers between campuses. Our staff is our greatest asset, and we will do all we can to make the transitions as smooth as possible.
How will changes affect the local unions?
We are committed to working with the respective unions and the existing collective bargaining agreements. Staff satisfaction is incredibly important and is second only to our patients' satisfaction. Just as we need to plan for our physical building changes, we will need to work with staff on how we make staffing transitions over time where needed.
While everyone retains their length of service, the question of union seniority transferring between Albert Lea and Austin is not something I-90 leaders can determine alone. While I-90 leadership is recommending to all groups that union seniority from other campuses be recognized, we will need to negotiate this with the respective groups in the coming weeks and months. We are hopeful that the groups will be open to this recommendation. Questions on this should be directed to the respective union stewards.
How will length of service be determined if staff transfer between the two campuses?
Length of service is determined by the employee's original hire date, whether it was with Naeve Hospital, Albert Lea Medical Center, Austin Medical Center or Mayo Clinic Health System. Everyone (union and non-union employees) preserves their length of service, no matter which campus they work on, because Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin is a single organization.
Will these changes improve your ability to recruit and retain providers and staff?
Provider recruitment and retention is a nation-wide challenge. There simply are not enough providers to fill all of the open positions. These changes will improve our ability to recruit and retain physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurses to the practice. Whenever an organization makes improvements and enhancements to its services and improves working environments, such as reducing on-call schedules for providers, it can be a positive draw for potential new providers, as well a positive for current providers to stay and be a vital team member in the organization.
How many beds are currently in the Albert Lea hospital and Austin hospital? How many beds will there be, total, on the Austin campus, once all inpatient (hospital) services are consolidated?
The average daily census (the average number of patients in the hospital on any given day) is 16 in Albert Lea and 29 in Austin. This includes the daily average of 10 patients in the Psychiatric Services Unit. We are generally staffed for 26 beds in Albert Lea and 43 beds in Austin. The numbers in Albert Lea reflect medical/surgical and Special Care Unit. In Austin, the numbers represent medical/surgical, ICU and Psychiatric Services Unit.
The plan calls for a total of 40 medical/surgical beds and 12 beds in the ICU on the Austin campus, when the remodeling and integration are completed, plus 12-16 beds on the Albert Lea campus for the Psychiatric Services Unit that will move from Austin to Albert Lea. The design and sizing of the Women's Center is in the planning stages as well.
How many beds are currently in the Austin Psychiatric Services Unit and how many nurses staff this Unit?
There is an average of 10 patients in the Psychiatric Services Unit each day, with a total of 24 nurses that staff this Unit.