A months-long effort to merge Sanford Health with Minnesota-based Fairview Health Services is being abandoned, Sanford announced in an email Thursday.
Although both health systems saw “significant benefits” to the merger that led them to “exhaust all potential pathways,” the merger was ultimately scrapped because of challenges that could not be overcome with “certain Minnesota stakeholders.”
Sanford has a clinic and hospital in Aberdeen.
“This is the right decision for our patients and residents, our people and the communities we serve,” Sanford Health President and CEO Bill Gassen said in the email to employees.
Sanford followed the email with a press release announcing the decision.
“We remain committed to providing world-class care to patients across our footprint,” Gassen said. “We are extremely grateful for the support we have received from many Minnesotans who share our vision to invest in health care delivery and enhance access to care in both rural and urban areas.”
It’s the second time in a decade that the two health systems attempted to merge. Both attempts were came to naught because of fierce resistance by some quarters in Minnesota, including the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office and some Minnesota lawmakers.
In a statement, Fairview President and CEO James Hereford echoed the release issued by Sanford.
“Our aligned missions, our shared commitment to health and healing, and our deep roots in our communities positioned us well to transform the future of health care,” Hereford said. “However, without support for this transaction from certain stakeholders, we have determined it is in the best interest of Fairview Health Services to discontinue the merger process.”
He added that he wished the outcome would have been different.
“While this may not have been the outcome we desired, we remain committed to our people and to continue advancing the important work we do every day in caring for those in need,” Hereford said. “I remain tremendously proud of all we have accomplished, and will continue to accomplish, together.”
Minnesota groups object to merger with Sanford
Former Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft walked away from a merger with Fairview in 2013 after objections from Minnesota politicians and officials at the University of Minnesota’s academic hospital. Krabbenhoft famously said that Sanford would “only go where we are invited.”
Under Gassen, Sanford persevered for months, undergoing withering criticism from various quarters. Former Govs. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, and Mark Dayton, a Democrat, objected to the merger. Nurses unions objected, as did members of the LGBT community. A key issue for opponents was Sanford’s control over the state’s “flagship medical academic hospital.”
Sanford sought to ameliorate some of those concerns. Gassen attended town halls across the state to address questions.
Earlier this month, Sanford issued a press release after after Becker’s Hospital Review, an industry publication, named Sanford’s Natasha Smith as one of the industry’s diversity, equity and inclusion officers to know.
“Under her leadership, the DEI office has conducted over 100 inclusivity trainings at Sanford Health’s four major medical centers,” the release said. “Trainings focus on gender affirming care, culturally relevant care, unconscious bias, microaggressions, empathy-building and psychological safety. During Smith’s tenure, she has created a new DEI site with resources for employees and leaders, coordinated an annual DEI celebration throughout Sanford, and expanded benefits for same sex marriages and domestic partnerships across the Sanford footprint.”