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Staffing shortage forces Mayo Clinic Health System into October move

AUSTIN, Minn. (KTTC) – The consolidation of Mayo Clinic Health System’s childbirth centers in Austin and Albert Lea is happening quicker than anticipated.

Originally scheduled for 2020, a staffing shortage has forced Mayo Clinic Health System to make that transition from Albert Lea to Austin a whole year earlier.

“We do understand that the birth of a child is one of the happiest moments a family could have.” said Sumit Bhagra, medical director at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin and Albert Lea.

Despite using any resource available, such as using staff from other branches and even contract physicians, the childbirth units in Austin and Albert lea are proving difficult to stay open.

Mayo Clinic Health System understands that moving up the combination of the two branches creates a hardship for some patients, but believes it is the best option.

“So we do have the patients that are scheduled to deliver in October, November and December mapped out,” Bhagra explained. “We will be reaching out to them to create customized plans.”

“By combining them, we will have a nice, brand-new unit with excellent facilities. We’ll have full staffing. All the staff that work there will be our staff.” said Mark Ciota, CEO at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin and Albert Lea.

In order to keep units at both campuses open, most of Mayo Clinic Health System staff is currently overworked.

“Especially in the physician and the nurses side, they’re overworked, long hours,” Ciota said. “By combining the two units, that gives a little bit better work-life balance to all of them.”

“If we were to keep both units running, we anticipated that our physicians would be on call every second or third night, which is not sustainable in the long term.” said Bhagra.

But those in Albert lea see this as a loss to their community.

“I understand, I live in Albert Lea. Again it’s a loss, I think it’d be wrong to say otherwise,” said Ciota. “Our responsibility here is to look long term for what medical services we can keep as local as possible.”

Those Albert Lea residents that are upset about the move have worked towards bringing a second provider to town.

“The alternative provider, talk from the sound of it, may duplicate some of the services we already provide.” Bhagra said.

Despite making a difficult decision, Mayo Clinic Health System believes they will continue to be the best healthcare provider in the area.

“We’re committed to communities in southeast Minnesota, no doubt about it.”

While the labor and delivery services are being combined, both locations will offer prenatal and postpartum care.

The Albert Lea branch is also expanding their emergency department.

Alex Tejada

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