Sanford-Fairview Merger: Employee, healthcare questions

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 6:50 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Residents of South Dakota and Minnesota are keeping their eyes on a proposed merger of two healthcare providers. Yesterday, we looked at the merger of Sanford and Fairview from a corporate and legislative viewpoint. Today we look at how it could affect employees or those in need of healthcare in the future.

With recent years of financial strain, employees of Fairview Healthcare may see new resources available, according to non-profit consultant Michael Wyland.

“Sanford coming in would give the Fairview facilities an opportunity to look at physical plant, look at staff training, provider training, look at a lot of other areas where Sanford might be able to provide a helping hand,” said Wyland.

And patients may have more choices across a larger region of the Midwest.

“More access to more providers, more administrators, more staff,” said Wyland.

Sanford CEO Bill Gassen says the two healthcare groups coming together will bring significant benefits.

“The heart of what we’re doing here is about providing more services to more people, improving care for each and every person that comes into our communities,” said Gassen.

Minnesota state representative Robert Bierman says his research doesn’t reflect such a glowing prediction.

“Prices tend to go up as much as 17% for the merger entities, and the other healthcare facilities in the region also show price increases,” explained Bierman.

And for those wondering what their job could look like: “Patients still need to be served,” said Wyland. “Bills still need to be processed. Supplies still need to be ordered. All of those things will continue.”

There may be headaches involved. An administrator in Arizona who experienced a different merger says years later, staff continue to have two laptops and two e-mail addresses as software changes hit a brick wall with physicians at both healthcare systems.

“And sometimes keeping the doctors happy means that we accommodate certain things administratively that, from the outside, don’t make sense,” said Wyland.

Gassen believes these types of problems won’t happen with this union.

“At Sanford, we have a strong history of bringing our organizations together in creating one integrated health system,” said Gassen. “That’s absolutely what the goal will be as we bring Sanford and Fairview together.”

He offers assurance to employees, saying “It’s truly about creating a stronger organization. We’ll create greater stability for all of our employees. It will be about creating more opportunities for growth.”

Wyland believes the continued separate tax filings from Sanford and Good Samaritan, which merged in early 2019, is an indicator that assimilation takes time.

“It’s entirely possible that it will take a long time to get the two organizations looking like a single organization,” said Wyland.

Wyland believes Sanford could benefit from expanding the Sanford Health Plan in Minnesota using Fairview’s patient base.