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New Albert Lea clinic latest victim of COVID-19

Construction on hold temporarily


Construction is on hold for the new clinic slated to be built in the former Herberger’s building as part of a partnership between the Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition and MercyOne North Iowa. 

Coalition President Brad Arends said Monday he received a phone call from MercyOne CEO Rod Schlader that the hospital’s parent company has put a hold on all capital projects until further notice as the organization responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“At MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center, we are focused on providing compassionate care to our patients and families and also preparing for COVID-19 impacts to our community,” the hospital said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Given the challenges of this pandemic and an unprecedented time in health care, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily halt construction plans for the Albert Lea clinic.”

Construction had been slated to start in April with a target completion date of Oct. 1. Arends said the longer the project is on hold, the later it will be until the clinic opens. Construction is slated to take about six months. 

MercyOne said it remains committed to resuming plans for construction and will share an update as soon as a new timeline is determined. 

“We greatly appreciate our continued partnership with the Albert Lea Health Care Coalition and look forward to working together to bring our new clinic and health care options to the community,” the statement said.

Arends said he was disappointed but not surprised to hear the news.

“Effectively, the world stopped spinning,” Arends said. “We’re all holed up in our houses and working remotely. It’s just part of the effect. It doesn’t mean that the world won’t become normal again; it’s just that right now this is the reality.” 

Arends emphasized to the community that the project is not canceled — it is merely postponed. 

The Albert Lea Healthcare Coalition last month closed on the former Herberger’s building at Northbridge Mall for the clinic. 

Plans call for starting with a primary care clinic with visiting specialists and urgent care and will expand to include an imaging center, additional specialists, obstetric services and an ambulatory surgery center at the end of the fifth phase, which he estimated would take three to five years, depending on patient load.