homepage logo

Odden to remain at St. Luke’s, Parker Oaks

By Staff | Jul 6, 2008

Dr. Kirk Odden

In light of hearsay that United Hospital forced Mankato Clinic to close its Blue Earth site, an agreement between the two allows Dr. Kirk Odden to see his patients at two local nursing homes.

“The Mankato Clinic and Dr. Odden wish to continue to provide services to this area at St. Luke’s and Parker Oaks as well as to provide specialty services at UHD,” reads a press release signed by Odden and Mark Matthias, chief medical officer of Mankato Clinic.

UHD Administrator Jeff Lang presented the written statement to hospital board members at their meeting Tuesday night.

Prior to the meeting, Lang; Dr. Terry Cahill, chief of staff at UHD; Odden and Matthias, met for the first time since Mankato Clinic announced it was leaving.

Odden is the medical director at both long-term care facilities. He also cares for 140 residents at St. Luke’s and 30 at Parker Oaks Communities Inc. in Winnebago.

Under the agreement, Odden will no longer work for UHD. Nursing home residents admitted to the hospital will be seen by Drs. Terry Cahill and Kevin Kimm, then turned over to Odden when released.

Odden told the Register he did not attend the meeting because “not much was going to be accomplished.”

He was referring to reversing Mankato Clinic’s decision to close on Aug. 29.

“It’s kind of one of those things, that to make things better, you have to move forward,” says Odden. “I appreciate the public’s support and their confidence in me.”

Members of St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center’s board and its administrator were among those in attendance, as were representatives from Parker Oaks.

St. Luke’s board chairman John Huisman says residents at the facility have been very concerned since finding out Mankato Clinic was shutting their doors in Blue Earth. “We would like to have an agreement written up to make sure what was said here is followed up,” says Huisman. “As a board we need to protect the residents of St. Luke’s.

Odden will have courtesy staff privileges, meaning he will be allowed to have lab tests and X-rays performed at the hospital. Lang says he expects Odden will request to have his active staff privilege at UHD revoked.

On another matter, Lang expressed his disappointment regarding talk around town that the hospital forced Mankato Clinic to close.

Lang told boardmembers he has tried to get Mankato Clinic officials to address questions and concerns of local residents.

He says he has requested public forums, press releases or other methods be used to address these concerns.

“I did that on four separate occasions. I’ve been trying to get Mankato Clinic to address some of these issues,” says Lang.

The hospital administrator outlined in detail a sequence of events leading up to June 5, when Mankato officials announced they were closing the Blue Earth clinic.

In an April 1 letter to Carol Tilney, director of clinical operations for Mankato Clinic, Lang said UHD was unable to renew their three-year lease.

“The reason for this action is based on UHD’s master planning process and the potential for modifications to the existing space you currently occupy as well as the potential for new clinic facilities on the UHD campus,” Lang wrote.

Instead, UHD offered Mankato Clinic a one-year lease. But, Lang says he doesn’t believe that’s why the Blue Earth clinic was closed.

Odden and Matthias wrote in their press release the clinic closing is based on many factors — that make it impossible to continue to have a primary clinic in a small community with only two providers.

“The decisions were not forced on the Mankato Clinic by UHD and/or Dr. Cahill,” the press release reads. “Much thought has been put into this and the decision to close the clinic will not be reversed.

Lang says timing of the announcement and the closing date of Odden’s practice led to public speculation.

Cahill referred to Odden as a “valued colleague” and called his leaving a crisis.

Recruiting primary care doctors in rural Minnesota is difficult, says Cahill, and the number of hours spent on-call adds to the problem

“There is absolutely no reason I would want him to leave. It would provide zero benefit to me,” says Cahill.

Among boardmembers, Douglas Johanson voiced the most criticism on how announcement of the clinic’s closing was handled.

Johanson says the board should still meet with Mankato Clinic officials.

“I’m concerned. I want to hear it from their face. I think we need choice,” Johanson says. “I feel like we are in the dark. I don’t like that.”