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Allina expanding its services to Springfield, Lamberton clinics

NEW ULM — In December, it was announced Allina Health would take over as the new health care providers to serve patients in Springfield and Lamberton when Mayo Clinic Health Systems vacates the facilities in March.

Allina will operate clinics in both communities and serve the nursing homes with Allina provider team. This will keep 11,000 patients visits in these communities and care close to home.

Allina is the provider of the New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC). The addition of these two clinics into the Allina system and will have an impact on rural medicine in the region.

NUMC Executive Director Toby Freier said they have been intentional in building collaborative partnerships in the region to strengthen rural healthcare. NUMC has a partnership with several area healthcare facilities including those in Hutchinson, Glencoe, Windom, Fairfax, St. Peter, Mankato and Sleepy Eye. The idea is to compete less and collaborate more.

“We’ve tried to figure out how to partner and determine the collective assets of the entire region,” Freier said.

Freier had previously spoken with administrators at the Springfield hospital about collaborating. By the time Mayo had begun discussing terminating services in Springfield, they were able to reach out to Freier at NUMC before the closure was announced.

“They knew I was interested in trying partner and extend service,” Frier said.

Mayo did not want to leave these communities without any service and many people in the Springfield region already traveled to NUMC for services making it a good fit.

Allina and Mayo are working together to manage the transition to limit disruption between medical services. The majority of the Allina staff members and providers working at the Springfield and Lamberton clinics after the transition will be from the previous Mayo team.

Freier said patients going to these clinics will see the same people, but with a different name tag that says, Allina.

With the new transition, there will be efforts to add specialty care at Springfield and Lamberton. NUMC has over 40 physicians working in New Ulm. Several have committed to spending time every month in Springfield so patients do not need to travel. These specialties include orthopedics, OBGYN and neurology.

Freier said there will be an expansion of some services in these communities, but there will be some losses. Springfield’s hospital functions are closing and reopening as only a clinic. The emergency department will close March 1.

There will be a transition period in which Mayo removes equipment from the hospital and for Allina to move into the facility. Allina estimates opening in Lamberton in late March and opening in Springfield in April.

This is a rare story of rural healthcare remaining in the community. Freier said if you google “rural healthcare” most of the stories will be negative. Most will be stories will be about rural hospitals closing or struggling to recruit doctors or maintain services.

NUMC is an outlier in that it can maintain and continually recruit new physicians.

“In most rural communities, it would be a good year if you recruited one doctor,” Freier said. NUMC was able to recruit 13 physicians and providers in 2019 across several specialties.

“You wouldn’t find another community that has had the success of bringing these types of physicians and providers into a rural region,” he said.

This prevents people from needing to leave the region for healthcare.

Freier said NUMC’s success with rural medicine was related to several factors. The first is New Ulm has a lot to offer as a community that is attractive for physicians. The amenities, parks, schools and family-oriented nature of the town have brought in several physicians.

Second, the doctors who visit New Ulm are excited by NUMC’s vision of healthcare in terms of collaboration and innovation.

Third, the culture of the NUMC team has a strong family feel and physicians want to be a part of it.

Freier describes NUMC as a regional medical center rather than the sole provider for New Ulm. He said NUMC has more than New Ulm needed, but the medical center is organized to assist more than New Ulm.

“On its own, New Ulm cannot support all that’s here. On its own, Springfield couldn’t support what they had. But if we band together and co-create together we can stop exporting healthcare,” Freier said.

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