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People walk to and from the entrance of the Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, where officials plan to consolidate its inpatient services to its Austin, Minnesota, location.

ALBERT LEA, Minn. | Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin is delaying the transition of inpatient surgeries from Albert Lea to Austin until the middle of this year.

Inpatient surgeries originally were expected to transition to Austin earlier this month, but that shifted later to the first quarter of this year.

Mayo Clinic spokeswoman Ginger Plumbo said there were factors that led the hospital system to further delay the move.

“We have said from the beginning that transition timelines may be influenced by many factors, such as availability of trained staff, space constraints and construction schedules,” she said. “Our inpatient surgical services planning team has taken great care to ensure all workflows are in place, as well as staff hired and trained, to support inpatient surgeries moving to Austin. These steps are necessary to ensure safe, high-quality care for our patients. We will transition surgeries over the next several months as our staffing permits.”

To support surgical services on both Albert Lea and Austin campuses, the hospital system announced it is recruiting to add approximately eight staff members.

“It’s important to note these surgical positions could take several months to recruit and train due to staffing shortages in this area,” Plumbo said. “However, we’re very hopeful these positions will be filled and trained within the first and second quarter of 2018.”

Hospital staff were reportedly notified of the delay before the holidays.

Save Our Hospital member Jennifer Vogt-Erickson said she was “encouraged” by the delay.

“It’s disappointing that (regional vice president for Mayo Clinic Health System in the southeast Minnesota region Annie Sadosty), who promised better engagement with the community, didn’t let our patients know about the delay in closing Albert Lea’s inpatient surgery,” Vogt-Erickson said in an email. “We found out after the fact, but the delay is good news for our community. With this delay, we respectfully ask Mayo to work with us on other options that serve the needs of our patients.”

“It’s a business decision, and business decisions can be changed,” Vogt-Erickson said in a telephone call.

Plumbo said despite the delay and the fact that she is not based in Albert Lea, she has heard the transition is going well and thanked staff members, who she said were “very committed.”

The intensive care unit moved to Austin in October. The inpatient behavioral health unit is expected to transition to Albert Lea the middle of this year, and the medical/surgical unit is slated to transfer to Austin in early 2019.

Childbirth services are expected to be the last to transition to Austin in either 2019 or 2020.

Save Our Hospital second provider committee member Craig Ludtke said a third meeting with a second provider is planned late this month, from which a better idea will be gained of whether the interested organization will enter the community.

“It still looks positive to me,” he said.

The provider is conducting a pro forma study of the feasibility of providing services in Albert Lea that Mayo is transitioning outside the community.

Sam Wilmes is a reporter for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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