Sanford-Fairview merger: U of M presses for control of campus teaching hospital ahead of deal

The proposed merger of Fairview and Sanford has drawn concerns from health care workers, legislators, union leaders and others.

The University of Minnesota is planning to ask the state to help it buy back its health care facilities from Fairview Health Services.
Mark Zdechlik /| MPR News 2015

ST. PAUL — With a potential merger between Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services looming, the University of Minnesota is planning to ask the state to help it acquire Twin Cities campus health care facilities from Fairview.

“We have a great research university, a great medical school and a great education program. It just makes sense that we have great hospital facilities in which we can combine all three in the same place,” Jakub Tolar, dean of the U of M Medical School and vice president for clinical affairs, said in a statement Thursday, Jan. 12.

University officials said they will ask elected officials to help them achieve this goal and others, by “helping the university fund the shifting of health facilities to university ownership, upgrading the facilities, and joining in the planning for a new, world-class medical center on the East Bank of the Twin Cities campus.”

During a Tuesday, Jan. 10, meeting, Sanford Health President and CEO Bill Gassen said that there was an option for the university to repurchase the academic medical center.

“Ultimately, it is the university's decision to make, and we're supportive and committed to continuing to work alongside with them,” he said.


Concerns revolved around the lack of concrete information about the proposed merger, including if a combined system would support and provide reproductive health care and gender-affirming care.

The proposed merger of Fairview and Sanford, announced in November, has drawn concerns from health care workers, legislators, union leaders and others for a multitude of reasons, including the impact on the university’s hospitals and clinics, especially since the institution is taxpayer-supported.

At the Tuesday night meeting, hosted by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Tolar said in no uncertain terms that there should be opposition to the merger until there are assurances for the university and its mission.

“It is our view that because the flagship medical facilities on our campus are a part of this proposed acquisition that [what] you have in front of you is not a private transaction, but a public question for the future for public academic medicine in Minnesota, and public responsibilities for those facilities,” Tolar said.

UMN officials said in the release that they remain “committed to continued partnership with all health care providers in Minnesota to ensure teaching, research and innovation are provided to medical professionals and patients statewide,” including Fairview, and would continue to contribute to conversations about the merger.

Ellison said his office is looking into the merger to make sure it complies with Minnesota state law.

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