Sanford-Fairview merger raises community concerns

Public hearing called by the MN Attorney General draws a crowd in Worthington
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 11:05 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WORTHINGTON, M.N. (Dakota News Now) - In November, Sanford and Fairview first made it known to the public their intention to merge companies. Today in Worthington, there was a public meeting to gather community feedback.

Wednesday’s meeting was the third of four community meetings hosted by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. The goal is to hear from different perspectives and investigate the implications of allowing the merger to go through.

For Sanford and Fairview, it’s all about consolidation of assets to better serve their patients. Sanford’s background of rural healthcare and Fairview’s background of urban healthcare is what both parties see as a benefit.

“I think we have an opportunity to really be leaders in the country and that’s pretty gratifying,” said James Hereford, President and CEO of Fairview. “Not many people have the privilege of being a part of that, so it’s very exciting.”

Sanford Health President and CEO, Bill Gassen, said these meetings are a great opportunity to gauge public impact.

“We recognize the reality that every decision we make involves a patient and that they’re at the center of all that we do,” said Gassen. “And that’s really the reason why we’re bringing our two organizations together.”

Nurses, patients, and even a former member of the Board of Governors for the University of Minnesota hospital system, Benjamin Vander Kooi Jr, each raised different concerns.

Vander Kooi Jr argued, “My primary concern is that the assets of the state of Minnesota remain under the control of the state of Minnesota.”

Many nurses and community members are concerned with issues of short-staffed hospitals and how the quality of care will be impacted. The U of M hospital system is concerned with the pace at which Fairview and Sanford want to complete this merger and is calling to delay the timeline of this merger. Gassen calls attempts to delay the merger “missed opportunities”.

“I have no problems with the services we’re receiving from Sanford,” said Vander Kooi Jr. “I have concerns about how the system has expanded over the years. We’ve been kind of left some of our concerns in the rear view mirror.”

Hereford said that the issues presented are really just non-issues that can be resolved with more public understanding of their intentions. Each meeting thus far has presented different concerns that pertain to each region. Bemidji community members were concerned with consolidation of the companies limiting the options of patients in the region. In the Twin Cities, community members raised concern about the future of the University of Minnesota Medical Center. The fourth and final meeting is set for January 31st in Grand Rapids, MN.