Community hospital battles pressures to merge with Mayo Clinic

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For 16 years, Colleen Spike, head of River's Edge Hospital and Clinic in St. Peter, Minn., has been fighting to maintain the hospital's independence as giant medical centers snap up smaller facilities across the country, reported the (Minnesota) Star Tribune. Like many community hospitals, 17-bed River's Edge Hospital has felt great pressure to merge with Mayo Clinic.

"It's been going on for years," Spike, who is retiring as CEO of River's Edge at the end of December, told the paper. "They are the elephant in the room that no one will address. Well, I am addressing it."

The conflict of decreasing independent hospitals as bigger systems expand also disquiets some patient advocates, businesses, doctors and insurers, who fear that more consolidation in less-populated regions will lead to fewer services at a higher cost. Last December, Spike urged the state attorney general to investigate Mayo Clinic, accusing the giant of steering patients away from River's Edge and becoming a dangerous monopoly. According to Spike, Mayo Clinic deliberately misinformed patients about its competitors' services in an effort to grab market share, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Since then, Spike has met twice with state officials but she is unaware of the status of her complaint, according to the Star Tribune. Spike claims Mayo is a key factor for its loss of $727,000 last year, and adds that she has refused Mayo's offers to purchase River's Edge Hospital.

However, Mayo doctors and hospital officials told the Tribune a different story. They deny Spike's accusation, stressing that more than 75 percent of River's Edge patients are referred from a nearby Mayo facility. "The hospital has been struggling, and it's only natural to look for someone to put the blame on," Elizabeth Osborne, M.D., a former member of the Mayo Clinic commission, said.

The rapidly expanding Mayo Clinic owns 13 of the 19 hospitals in southern Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported. Mayo also owns a nearby primary care clinic. Latest Minnesota gains include Queen of Peace Hospital in New Prague and a clinic in Red Wing. Mayo also announced a partnership with OSF Healthcare, the fourth-largest health care provider in Illinois.

Mayo officials consider consolidation a step to facilitate sharing patient records and consulting on the most effective treatment, according to the Star Tribune.

To learn more:
- read the Star Tribune article
- check out Mayo's announcement

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