Rural hospital operators grumble about Mayo takeovers

The Mayo label may not be all that it's stacked up to be.

That's apparently the case with Fairmont Hospital in rural Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic's takeover of the community hospital has led to uneven finances and unhappy community members, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Patients are grumbling about long waits to obtain care or getting diverted to another Mayo-owned hospital in Mankato, Minnesota, 60 miles to the north.

The situation is common for many rural hospitals, which have been struggling with a dwindling patient base and pinched finances. Experts say mergers and affiliations will help keep their doors open, although that often means making tradeoffs regarding independence and the services offered to the community.

"If I was sitting in some of these other small, rural communities where they have a (hospital) not affiliated with a strong system such as Mayo, I'd be very, very concerned," Bob Bartingale, Fairmont's administrator, told the Star-Tribune.

Fairmont posted a loss of $1.3 million in 2011, although that narrowed to less than $300,000 in 2012. It also will pay among the highest financial penalties for rates of patient readmission next year, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. However, Mayo officials have said the hospital has fared well in treating patients with pneumonia and heart failure, and that it expects to continue improving the quality of care, according to the Star-Tribune.

Nonetheless, some hospitals have had second thoughts after such affiliations. Hospital officials in Madelia, Minnesota, decided against renewing a Mayo contract to manage its outpatient clinic--also because many patients were being diverted to a Mayo facility in Mankato.

"It's a failure to see the difference between the delivery of healthcare in a metropolitan areas vs. delivering healthcare within a rural area," Colleen Spike, the recently retired administrator of the St. Peter hospital, which recently sold out to Mayo, told the Star-Tribune.

To learn more:
- read the Minneapolis Star-Tribune article