Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Mayo Clinic and the City of Albert Lea have agreed, in principle, to participate in facilitated discussions on the future of healthcare in Albert Lea.The agreement was announced by First District Congressman Tim Walz, who issued a statement indicating he assisted in the process.

The Mayo Clinic in June announced a consolidation plan that would move overnight hospitalization, inpatient care for major surgeries, the intensive care unit, and childbirth services from the Mayo Clinic Health Care System campus in Albert Lea to Austin. The decision sparked fierce opposition from Albert Lea officials and citizens, prompting several protests in Albert Lea and Rochester, and the study of the feasibility of operating a full-service hospital in the Freeborn County city without the Mayo Clinic.

The City of Albert Lea and Mayo Clinic released a joint statement on the announcement: “We have a responsibility to the communities we serve to engage in constructive communication going forward. Facilitated dialogue is a very positive step in meeting our shared goal of providing quality health care and we are dedicated to the hard work ahead of us. We thank Rep. Walz for his service to his constituents and for working to bring us to the discussion table.”

It's unclear when the dialogue between the two parties will take place. The statement from Congressman Walz indicates the parameters of Albert Lea and Mayo’s agreement in principle are as follows:

Facilitated dialogue is completely voluntary and non-binding;
Albert Lea and Mayo Clinic will split the cost of any services equitably;
The parties have agreed upon a professional facilitator who is a neutral third party; In the beginning of the process, the parties will decide jointly on: the scope of the dialogue; issues to be covered; timeline; budget; and other critical items needed to create the conditions for productive problem-solving discussions.