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Sanford Health and Longtime CEO Part Ways

Kelby Krabbenhoft
Kelby Krabbenhoft

Sanford Health and longtime CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft have “mutually agreed to part ways.” That’s according to a statement from the health system. Krabbenhoft made headlines for his comments related to COVID-19 in a staff email last week.

The Sanford Board of Trustees has named Chief Administrative Officer Bill Gassen the system’s new CEO.

Krabbenhoft led the state’s largest health system for 25 years, and secured the historic $400 million donation from T. Denny Sanford for whom the system is now named.

Last month Krabbenhoft announced a pending merger between Sanford Health and Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare. He said he planned to retire soon, and that Intermountain CEO Dr. Marc Harrison would take over leadership of the merged systems.

But late last week, Krabbenhoft weighed in on mask policies through a staff email. He agrees masks are effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, but he opposes government mandates. He revealed he’s had COVID-19, and claimed his immunity would make his own mask usage nothing more than “symbolic.”

Sanford Health soon released a statement that Krabbenhoft’s views do not reflect the health system as a whole. Four days later, the system announced Krabbenhoft’s departure.

In his own statement, Krabbenhoft says Sanford is stronger than ever, and this was a good time to retire.

It’s unclear if the shifting leadership will impact the merge with Intermountain Healthcare. The merge is expected to close next year.

-Contact SDPB reporter Jackie Hendry by email.