Created: June 29, 2020 06:39 PM
(ABC 6 News) - The group aiming to restore full healthcare services in Albert Lea says progress has slowed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The efforts of the Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition began a few years ago after Mayo Clinic moved select services to Austin.
In February, the coalition closed on the former Herberger's building destined to become the newest site of MercyOne. Now, Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition President Brad Arends says all MercyOne capital projects are on hold.
"They froze everything and said we have to focus on the job at hand and that's controlling this pandemic,” said Arends. "We should be right in the middle of our construction project. That was slated to start the first part of April and be concluded on October 1. Now, our goal is to start October 1 and once we get started it's generally felt to be about a six-month build."
The design of the new clinic is also changing because of the pandemic. The coalition had selected construction bids but is now revisiting with their architect.
"Now, there are new best practices that say, ‘Ok we've got to have a waiting area for the healthy people that are just there for a routine physical or something like that and we've got to have another waiting area for the people who are sick potentially with a contagious disease like COVID,’” Arends said.
Despite the setbacks, the group is pushing forward and meeting regularly with the support of the community by their side.
"There will be anywhere from 100 to 160 people that will come. Those are dedicated people who have been involved in this for the three-plus years that this movement has been in place,” said Arends.
The coalition has had two doctors commit to the new clinic.
Arends says the pandemic has only solidified the importance of having full-service healthcare in a community of its size.
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