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Thissen to speak at Albert Lea hospital rally

ALBERT LEA — Save Our Hospital has secured two speakers for the Sept. 30 Rally for Rural Healthcare outside Mayo Clinic's Albert Lea campus.

Rep. Paul Thissen, the former Democratic speaker of the house and a candidate for governor in 2018, and Dr. Matthew Kumar, who has filed four federal antitrust complaints against Mayo, have both agreed to speak, according to Save Our Hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Vogt-Erickson.

Thissen on Thursday confirmed his plans to attend, but the Post Bulletin was unable to reach Kumar.

 More than 250 people are expected to attend the event, which is scheduled to coincide with Mayo shifting its intensive care unit from Albert Lea to Austin on Oct. 1. During the next 18 months, most inpatient services will be moved to Austin due to financial and staffing concerns, according to the clinic.

Kumar, who chairs the Department of Anesthesiology at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, made headlines earlier this month when the Post Bulletin discovered he has filed multiple complaints against his employer since 2015.

Thissen is a new face in the debate. However, he's previously sent a letter to John Noseworthy, Mayo's president and CEO, requesting a pause in the consolidation and raising concerns about communication, Destination Medical Center funding and higher premiums in southeastern Minnesota. Those concerns echo many points raised by other Democrats, including Gov. Mark Dayton and 1st District Congressman Tim Walz.

"Rural counties and smaller towns require a different approach to health care," Thissen wrote on Sept. 8. "All of us have been challenged to meet those unique demands. People are rightly scared and concerned about their future health security. This is true for the people in Albert Lea.

"I've heard communities from across Mayo's service territory who are asking themselves, 'Are we next?'"

Mayo has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to citizens in and around Albert Lea, but some services — starting with the ICU — will soon be located 23 miles away. The two campuses are legally considered one entity.

Mayo announced its decision to consolidate the Austin and Albert Lea campuses on June 12 after completing an 18-month internal study. It's since explained that decision by pointing to millions in financial losses in recent years and staffing challenges that put patients at risk.

Original Article: http://www.postbulletin.com/news/local/thissen-to-speak-at-albert-lea-hospital-rally/article_471cf863-cb2a-557a-bb3e-9cdddf45fc28.html