COVID-19 halts Albert Lea Clinic's construction plans

Alice Keefe
Created: March 25, 2020 06:55 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- It’s been almost three years since a grassroots group in Albert Lea with the slogan “Save Our Hospital” formed.

“Save our hospital morphed in to save our health care,” said Brad Arends, volunteer president of the Albert Lea Health Care Coalition.


This past fall, it seemed the fight was over and won, with plans for MercyOne North Iowa to open facilities in Albert Lea as early as January 2021.

But COVID-19 has put those plans on a temporary hold.

In a statement MercyOne North Iowa said:

At MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center, we are focused on providing compassionate care to our patients and families and also preparing for COVID-19 impacts to our community. Given the challenges of this pandemic and unprecedented time in health care, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily halt construction plans for the Albert Lea Clinic.

“Was I disappointed? Sure. But I’ll equate it back to my other full-time job running a business here. I mean we’ve had to make changes because of circumstances,” Arends said.

He thinks MercyOne is doing the right thing, but the reality of the coronavirus pandemic has made him acutely aware of how important MercyOne’s arrival will be for the community.

“We don’t have an ICU here any longer, and an ICU is a mission-critical to our current situation in the United States, yet we don’t have it,” Arends said.

The current plans for MercyOne in Albert Lea do not include an ICU, but for Arends, even having the primary care clinic with specialists and an urgent care will be a big deal and worth the wait.

Construction on the Albert Lea Clinic was supposed to start in April and be operational in January of 2021.

MercyOne North Iowa said it is committed to resuming construction plans, but a new timeline has yet to be determined.

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