'Ribbon-tying' ceremony celebrates opening of Mayo Clinic Health System's new Austin facilities

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Jun. 15—AUSTIN — Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin celebrated the completion of construction of a medical and surgical inpatient care unit, a birth center and an intensive care unit at the Austin campus Monday.

The celebration included a ribbon-tying ceremony in which Austin Area Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Hansen and Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shari Jensen joined two ribbons, symbolizing the joining of the two communities' health systems.

The construction was part of the integration of the Austin and Albert Lea health systems that began in 2017. The new facilities at 1000 First Drive NW, Austin, include a 39-room medical and surgical unit, a 12-room ICU and 10-room birth center. The new facilities also include telehealth units that allow patients to consult with Mayo Clinic experts virtually.

The Family Birth Center includes an obstetrics operating room within the unit and security measures. Additionally, the birth center offers services previously unavailable, such as pain medication options for mothers and the opportunity for mothers who have previously given birth via Cesarean section to attempt to deliver without another C-section.

At Monday's ceremony, Dr. Mark Ciota, outgoing CEO of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, thanked leaders of the $25 million integration plan and staff.

"The journey has not been without obstacles. This team, however, kept a laser focus on our goal, which was to do what's best for our local patients while leveraging our role as part of Mayo Clinic," Ciota said.

Other speakers also noted the challenges the plan faced from the community. When the consolidation was initially announced in 2017, there was backlash in Albert Lea as residents raised concerns about the loss of certain medical services.

Dr. Sumit Bhagra said the goal of the integration was to make healthcare in Austin, Albert Lea and surrounding communities more sustainable. He said that most services, including outpatient services and emergency departments, are offered at both sites.

Each campus offers emergency care, primary care providers and specialists, pregnancy care, outpatient surgeries and procedures, and all the supporting services like lab, radiology, pharmacy and physical/occupational therapy.

The Albert Lea facility includes a renovated cancer treatment center, inpatient psychiatric care, dialysis and a hyperbaric chamber for treating wounds, high-quality services not usually available in smaller communities, according to Mayo Clinic.

"This was really about rebalancing some of the most acute services so that they could have larger, redesigned units and take better care of our patients in all of those locations," Bhagra said.

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