Mayo Clinic Kenyon

The Mayo Clinic Health System announced in October that it is closing its Kenyon location at the end of the year. (Photo courtesy of the Mayo Clinic)

Given last month’s announcement that Mayo Clinic Health System is closing its Blooming Prairie and Kenyon clinics at the end of 2020, Kenyon city leaders reached out to Mayo to discuss plans moving forward While Mayo representatives Jason Wray-Raabolle and Ilaya Hopkins opened the door to other healthcare options during the Nov. 10 Kenyon City Council work session, the council expressed concern over the loss of an on-site facility. The clinics, which were open one to two days per week, have been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, allowing staff to work at larger clinic locations to meet patient demand, according to the Mayo’s announcement in October. The two locations will likely not reopen before the clinics are permanently closed later this year when the leases for the two locations expire. Mayo said the closures are part of a system-wide review and it desires to continue serving rural Minnesota communities. Health care providers across the nation have suffered significant losses due to the pandemic. A large portion of surgeries and other medical procedures have been canceled since March and patients have been hesitant about in-person treatment. Two Fairview hospitals in St. Paul closed last month. Pandemic-induced losses couple with prior financial difficulties reportedly contributed to the closures. In September, city-owned Northfield Hospital revealed an $8 million revenue shortfall due the coronavirus. Looking towards the future After Mayo’s presentation on viable options — telemedicine, video visits, remote monitoring, advanced care at home, a mobile clinic and a community paramedic — the city can take part in, City Administrator Mark Vahlsing said there’s some good options that the community can look at in the future. He also said one of the city’s difficulties remains in the uncertainty of realistic steps Mayo will consider. Council member John Mortensen expressed concerns about telemedicine or video visits given the age of the community, saying a top priority should be focusing on how to provide all with computer access and technological capabilities. Youth volunteers could help those experiencing challenges with the technology could be utilized, said Council member Richard Nielsen. Or, he said, they could loan their personal laptop to the individual in need. Council member Tom Gard asked whether the building could remain open a couple days a week for video conferencing calls as opposed to bringing a mobile clinic to town. Mayor Doug Henke said the clinic has been slowly reducing services for three to four years, and questioned whether the clinic in Kenyon was profitable. “There are other providers out there, I’d like to you have a solid timeframe in what you’ll do, instead of the virtual reality. We have older people here and a lot have problems with computers, we have to have onsite people,” said Henke. “Come up with a plan by the first of the year with exactly what you’ll do, so we can look forward to working with you or getting out and looking elsewhere.” Wray-Raabolle, family medicine physician and primary care lead for Faribault and Owatonna, said a six-week timeframe would be challenging. “I would say we are happy to partner, and having a physical space that’s appropriate and efficient (and) that works is very much on the table,” said Wray-Raabolle. “I respect your comments, Mayor, and we are committed to working with the needs of Mayo Clinic Health System patients and will continue to do and very much respect your roles as community leaders in meeting community needs as well.” But he said, the status quo isn’t sustainable, though a combination of ideas could be possible. “We can mobilize with our teams and engage with individuals on what those spaces would look like,” he said. Keeping a presence in the community There are several issues with the current facility, including its size and number of staff available. Wray-Raabolle said another option on the table includes evaluating the size and cost of the space, along with figuring out how Mayo can provide staff to meet those needs. Vahlsing concluded the discussion saying that he still believes Kenyon can support a physical space, especially with its growing population. The physical location will be a big component of future discussions with Mayo representatives. Vahlsing said the city will also reach out to other health care providers like Northfield Hospital + Clinics with locations in Faribault and Northfield; Olmsted Medical Center in Wanamingo, Cannon Falls, Pine Island and Rochester, as well as Allina Health, with locations in Faribault, Northfield and Owatonna. Mayo Clinic continues to offer services at other locations that include Owatonna, Faribault, Austin, Cannon Falls and Zumbrota. “It’s obvious we have to realize it’s a difficult time to be talking about healthcare systems expanding with COVID-19, as many providers have temporarily closed locations,” Vahlsing said. “This may not happen immediately, as a physical presence is a work in progress and it’s a very difficult time for healthcare right now.”

Given last month’s announcement that Mayo Clinic Health System is closing its Blooming Prairie and Kenyon clinics at the end of 2020, Kenyon city leaders reached out to Mayo to discuss plans moving forward

While Mayo representatives Jason Wray-Raabolle and Ilaya Hopkins opened the door to other healthcare options during the Nov. 10 Kenyon City Council work session, the council expressed concern over the loss of an on-site facility.

The clinics, which were open one to two days per week, have been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, allowing staff to work at larger clinic locations to meet patient demand, according to the Mayo’s announcement in October.

The two locations will likely not reopen before the clinics are permanently closed later this year when the leases for the two locations expire. Mayo said the closures are part of a system-wide review and it desires to continue serving rural Minnesota communities.

Health care providers across the nation have suffered significant losses due to the pandemic. A large portion of surgeries and other medical procedures have been canceled since March and patients have been hesitant about in-person treatment.

Two Fairview hospitals in St. Paul closed last month. Pandemic-induced losses couple with prior financial difficulties reportedly contributed to the closures.

In September, city-owned Northfield Hospital revealed an $8 million revenue shortfall due the coronavirus.

Looking toward the future

After Mayo’s presentation on viable options — telemedicine, video visits, remote monitoring, advanced care at home, a mobile clinic and a community paramedic — the city can take part in, City Administrator Mark Vahlsing said there’s some good options that the community can look at in the future. He also said one of the city’s difficulties remains in the uncertainty of realistic steps Mayo will consider.

Council member John Mortensen expressed concerns about telemedicine or video visits given the age of the community, saying a top priority should be focusing on how to provide all with computer access and technological capabilities.

Youth volunteers could help those experiencing challenges with the technology could be utilized, said Council member Richard Nielsen. Or, he said, they could loan their personal laptop to the individual in need.

Council member Tom Gard asked whether the building could remain open a couple days a week for video conferencing calls as opposed to bringing a mobile clinic to town.

Mayor Doug Henke said the clinic has been slowly reducing services for three to four years, and questioned whether the clinic in Kenyon was profitable.

“There are other providers out there, I’d like to you have a solid timeframe in what you’ll do, instead of the virtual reality. We have older people here and a lot have problems with computers, we have to have onsite people,” said Henke. “Come up with a plan by the first of the year with exactly what you’ll do, so we can look forward to working with you or getting out and looking elsewhere.”

Wray-Raabolle, family medicine physician and primary care lead for Faribault and Owatonna, said a six-week timeframe would be challenging.

“I would say we are happy to partner, and having a physical space that’s appropriate and efficient (and) that works is very much on the table,” said Wray-Raabolle. “I respect your comments, Mayor, and we are committed to working with the needs of Mayo Clinic Health System patients and will continue to do and very much respect your roles as community leaders in meeting community needs as well.”

But he said, the status quo isn’t sustainable, though a combination of ideas could be possible.

“We can mobilize with our teams and engage with individuals on what those spaces would look like,” he said.

Keeping a presence in the community

There are several issues with the current facility, including its size and number of staff available. Wray-Raabolle said another option on the table includes evaluating the size and cost of the space, along with figuring out how Mayo can provide staff to meet those needs.

Vahlsing concluded the discussion saying that he still believes Kenyon can support a physical space, especially with its growing population. The physical location will be a big component of future discussions with Mayo representatives. Vahlsing said the city will also reach out to other health care providers like Northfield Hospital + Clinics with locations in Faribault and Northfield; Olmsted Medical Center in Wanamingo, Cannon Falls, Pine Island and Rochester, as well as Allina Health, with locations in Faribault, Northfield and Owatonna. Mayo Clinic continues to offer services at other locations that include Owatonna, Faribault, Austin, Cannon Falls and Zumbrota.

“It’s obvious we have to realize it’s a difficult time to be talking about healthcare systems expanding with COVID-19, as many providers have temporarily closed locations,” Vahlsing said. “This may not happen immediately, as a physical presence is a work in progress and it’s a very difficult time for healthcare right now.”

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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