ALBERT LEA, Minnesota - It's a celebration over three years in the making.
The new MercyOne North Iowa clinic inside Northbridge Mall is a result of a multi-year effort launched when Mayo Clinic announced in 2017 that it would be moving in-patient medical services to their Austin campus. On Thursday morning, groundbreaking for the new clinic was officially held inside the former Herbergers space, with 14,000 sq. ft. of the 64,000 sq. ft. space being designated for phase 1 of the primary care clinic.
The Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition, an evolution of what started out originally as Save Our Hospital and then Save Our Healthcare, purchased the space last year, and will be leased to MercyOne. ALHC President Brad Arends noted during the ceremony that when the announcement was initially made, citizens made their voices loud and clear that they wanted to keep essential care services available in their community, and were willing to contribute around $5 million altogether during the fundraising process. He adds that it's the people's continued work and patience that have made this clinic possible.
"This is a testament to the perserverance, the dedication, and the will of the citizens of Albert Lea. It's them who deserve the credit today, and their fortitude and their attitude that, not only do we want these important services in Albert Lea, but we need them. We need them to be a vibrant community. For a community the size of Albert Lea, it is an expectation to have these kinds of services."
Though the ceremony was limited to MercyOne representatives, coalition trustees and architects, community members packed the parking lot in front of the future clinic, listening through their radios and honking their horns in lieu of applause to celebrate this milestone.
"It really is a testament of what can be done with a cause and a lot of supporters that are passionate. And that's what happened here."
MercyOne North Iowa agreed to partner with the coalition to run the clinic in September 2019. President Rod Schlader says it's the organization's first foray into Minnesota.
"It's been a huge amount of work and collaboration with these partners. We've gone through a few rough edges trying to negotiate this, but in the end, we had the same mission and vision to provide healthcare here in Albert Lea. I think our organizations fit together beautifully to get that done."
The first phase for the clinic, which will also include a mobile imaging center set up outside, is aimed to be completed by July 1 of this year. Future phases will include additional exam rooms, an in-house imaging center, an outpatient surgery center and other services, depending on patient needs.