ALBERT LEA — Mayo Clinic has started a $2.75 million project to install a state-of-the-art cooling plant at its Albert Lea facility.

While the upgrades actually began last fall, Mayo announced the start of the project Tuesday while the campus is already facing a whirlwind of changes and public criticism. Work is expected to be wrapped up in May.

Last summer, Mayo officials announced that it would be consolidating most inpatient services at Mayo Clinic Health System — Albert Lea and Austin. The plan has been widely panned by citizens and local officials. However, Mayo officials are touting the new investment while saying it shows their commitment to the community.

According to a news release issued by Mayo spokeswoman Mandie Siems, the upgrade "will pave the way for future renovations and expansions at the medical center in Albert Lea." The new energy-efficient system was control temperatures throughout the main campus, increase the cooling capacity and allow temperature regulation in different areas of the building.

"The new chiller plant is just part of a nearly $5 million investment we are making in the medical center facilities in Albert Lea," said Dr. Mark Ciota, CEO of MCHS in Albert Lea and Austin. "For more than two decades, we've been investing in this facility, along with generous contributions from community members, the Naeve Hospital Auxiliary, and the Naeve Health Care Foundation.

"This latest round of improvements, the chiller plant, demonstrates the long-term commitment Mayo is making to Albert and the surrounding area. We are proud to be the community's longtime partner for health, and we look forward to caring for current and future generations of patients."

Additional upgrades in Albert Lea include remodeling the Cancer Center, adding observation beds adjacent to the emergency department, and remodeling to accommodate the transition of the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit from Austin to Albert Lea.

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