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St. Lukes wants to keep Dr. Odden

By Staff | Jun 28, 2008

St. Lukes Lutheran Home wants to keep Dr. Kirk Odden as its medical director, and as one of its visiting physicians.

The news earlier this month that the Mankato Clinic is closing its Blue Earth site at the end of August has sent shock waves throughout the community. But nowhere has the effect been felt more than at St. Lukes Lutheran Care Center.

Dr. Kirk Odden of the Blue Earth Medical Clinic (the Mankato Clinic facility) serves as the medical director at St. Lukes. He also has about 140 of the residents there as patients, according to St. Lukes Administrator Gene Nelson.

“Dr. Odden is very important to us,” Nelson said. “He is a very classy guy and a very good doctor and we don’t want to lose him. So we are going to do what we can to keep him.”

Odden is scheduled to move his practice to the Mankato Clinic site in Lake Crystal after the Blue Earth site closes on Aug. 29. Odden also sees about 30 residents of Parker Oaks in Winnebago.

The St. Lukes board of directors voted Tuesday afternoon to send a letter to the United Hospital District board of directors. In that letter they request that Dr. Odden’s hospital privileges be kept in place.

“The letter says that we need their cooperation in order for Dr. Odden to be able to order lab tests and X-rays at the hospital,” Board Chairman John Huisman said.

While Dr. Odden currently has hospital privileges, Huisman said, he could lose those with his practice moving to Lake Crystal.

“UHD has a strict policy about which doctors can admit patients,” Huisman said. “We have run into that problem in the past with other doctors, so it is a concern.”

Huisman also said that the St. Lukes board is contacting the Mankato Clinic to ensure that Odden can continue to serve as the medical director.

“We estimate that it will take about one day per week for him to continue with that position,” he said.

“As medical director Odden is responsible for the overall medical well-being of all the residents of the facility,” Administrator Nelson said. Odden works with the nursing staff and advises the staff and board of directors on medical care issues.

Both Nelson and Huisman said that they have not been advised that Odden will be resigning from the medical director position at St. Lukes.

“Having Dr. Odden on our staff is critical to us and our mission of care for people,” Nelson said.

Huisman added that for many of the older residents at St. Lukes, change is a major factor. “It is very upsetting to them to have to switch doctors, especially if they have been with the same one for a long time.”

“The Mankato Clinic is working with Blue Earth area healthcare facilities to assure the continuity of care for the patients at St. Lukes,” commented Dr. Mark Matthias, Mankato Clinic Chief Medical Officer.

“By working together it is our hope that we can find a solution that would allow Dr. Odden to continue to have some role in the care of patients at St. Luke’s which would assist in making this transition as smooth as possible for those patients.”

Blue Earth Mayor Rob Hammond met with officials of the Mankato Clinic last Tuesday, on behalf of the city and the EDA.

Hammond said that the Mankato Clinic spokesmen reiterated their reasons for closing the Blue Earth site.

“They said that it was difficult to maintain a profitable clinic, due in large part to the fact that they are a ‘for profit’ clinic and are reimbursed differently than ‘not-for-profit’ clinics,” Hammond said.

Another reason was the difficulty in finding medical professionals willing to work for rural clinics. Equipping clinics with lab and x-ray equipment was also cited, Hammond said.

“The bottom line is that they are closing it, and we need to move on from there,” Hammond said.