Ellison investigating proposed Sanford Health-Fairview Health merger

November 23, 2022

ST. PAUL, Minn. (KFGO/WCCO) – As part of the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office investigation into the looming merger of Minnesota-based Fairview Health Services and Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health, Attorney General Keith Ellison (pictured) says up to four public hearings will be held statewide, including at the State Capitol to hear concerns and answer questions the public may have about what a merger could mean for their health care.

Ellison said they’re setting up online and phone public comment spaces, adding that there are a lot of questions about what a merger means.

“We will be coming to your communities and we’ll be having public hearings here, and you can give your written comments on the online or verbal comments on our phone line,” Ellison said. “At the end of the day, I want everybody to have their say and I want everybody’s point of view to be factored in.”

The Attorney General’s Office investigation is looking at state and federal laws regarding the proposed merger.

“Whether or not there’s overlap, we’ll find out,” Ellison said Tuesday. “On employment, on access, on quality. Not all the questions have been negative.”

Nearly ten years ago, the new health providers attempted a merger that eventually fell through. Sanford is the largest medical system in both South and North Dakota. It’s also the largest rural provider in the United States. Sanford serves more than one million patients and 220,000 health plan members each year.

Sanford does operate clinics in Minnesota, nearly all of them in rural western and northern Minnesota.

“Our organizations are united by a shared commitment to advance the health and well-being of our communities,” said Sanford Health President and CEO Bill Gassen. “As a combined system, we can do more to expand access to complex and highly specialized care, utilize innovative technology and provide a broader range of virtual services, unlock greater research capabilities and transform the care delivery experience to ensure every patient receives the best care no matter where they live.”

Fairview isn’t as large and sprawling as Sanford with 31,000 employees at ten hospitals and medical centers located exclusively within the Twin Cities metro area. Fairview owns the University of Minnesota hospital system which it purchased in 1997.

“With Sanford Health, Fairview Health Services has found a partner that shares our Midwestern values and our commitment to affordable, accessible and equitable care delivery,” said Fairview Health Services President and CEO James Hereford. “Our complementary capabilities mean that together, we are uniquely positioned to improve clinical outcomes, develop new care delivery models, expand opportunities for employees and clinicians across our broader operational footprint, and apply our combined resources to positively impact the wellbeing of our patients and communities today and for decades to come.”

One of the main reasons the merger fell through in 2013 was the U of M hospitals, the main teaching institution for medical professionals in the state. Lawmakers were concerned that the University system would no longer be locally owned.