May 25—LAKE CRYSTAL — After temporarily closing its Lake Crystal clinic in 2020, Mayo Clinic Health System announced Tuesday the closure will now be permanent.
The health system decided not to reopen the clinic at 200 E. Prince St., which initially closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Three other southern Minnesota clinics in Sherburn, Trimont and Truman, plus one in Armstrong, Iowa, also won't reopen.
Low patient volumes before the pandemic, along with the expansion of telehealth and other new care models during it, contributed to the closures, said Dr. James Hebl, vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System's southwest Minnesota region.
"These new models of care that have really accelerated because of the pandemic, combined with the fact Mayo Clinic Health System will soon be launching a mobile health clinic, led us to the decision not to reopen several part-time clinics," he said.
The clinics were mainly open one or two days per week. Physicians and nurse practitioners would provide care during limited hours at the clinics, then work back at bigger base sites nearby on other days.
Care providers at the clinics were redeployed back to base sites in Mankato, St. James and Fairmont during the pandemic. Patients who prefer face-to-face appointments can continue to see their providers at the base sites, with the five cities being within about a 20-minute drive from either Mankato, St. James or Fairmont.
Operating the clinics was a struggle before the pandemic, Hebl said. Patient volumes were on the decline, and the patients would often have to book follow-up appointments elsewhere if they needed services like X-rays and lab work.
"Even pre-pandemic, it was a challenge to maintain these clinics in a viable way," Hebl said. "The pandemic came and with the pandemic these new and innovative care models really exploded and we accelerated their development."
With clinic care models moving further away from what was once entirely face-to-face visits in clinic buildings, he sees telehealth and other innovations as ways to keep providing health care to residents in the five cities.
"The pandemic has really shown us and taught us that and allowed us to continue to provide care in these communities without a bricks-and-mortar clinic," he said.
More details on the health system's mobile clinic plans, including where it'll go and when it'll debut, are expected in the next few weeks. It'll include exam rooms and other customized health care features in a large vehicle similar to a Winnebago recreational vehicle, Hebl said.
"We're super excited about yet another modality in which we can reach those patients," he said.
Like clinics, pharmacies have also become more of a rarity in small towns, resulting in many patients having to go out of town to pick up their prescriptions following appointments. At least in Lake Crystal's case, though, Madelia Health opened a pharmacy in the city last year a few months after Mayo health system announced its clinic's temporary closure.
The pharmacy's opening and now the clinic's closure are just two developments in what's been an eventful year or so for health care in Lake Crystal. A local doctor's retirement last year added uncertainty about the future of a separate clinic in the city.
Madelia Health and Mankato Clinic partnered to take ownership of the clinic in summer 2020. Now known as the Madelia Health — Lake Crystal Clinic, it's on the same block as Mayo health system's former clinic.
The Lake Crystal building was leased space, along with Mayo health system's three other clinic buildings in Minnesota. The Iowa clinic building was owned and will likely be sold, according to the health system.
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