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Sanford, Fairview Health announce plans to merge

Sanford Health has announced plans to merge with another regional health care provider.

Sanford and Minnesota-based Fairview Health Services have signed a non-binding letter of intent to combine, according to a press release sent Tuesday.

Both systems will remain nonprofits under a single parent company named “Sanford Health.” They will each have their own regional presence, leadership and regional boards in the markets they serve.

The health systems had a combined operating revenue of $13.5 billion in 2021, according to Becker's Hospital Review. Together, they would employ roughly 80,000 people across the Upper Midwest.

Sanford Health CEO Bill Gassen will serve as President and CEO of the combined system, and Fairview Health Services CEO James Hereford will serve as Co-CEO for a period of one-year post-closing, according to the release.

"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," Gassen said.

The organizations expect to complete the deal in 2023.

Fairview Health's system consists of 11 hospitals, including the M. Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center. The merger would give Sanford a significantly larger footprint in Minnesota, especially in the Minneapolis area.

The two health systems discussed merging back in 2013, but those negotiations fell through. Those talks failed in part due to concerns raised by former Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, according to an MPR report.

A spokesperson for current attorney general Keith Ellison said his office is aware of the proposed merger.

"We have opened an investigation into the proposed transaction's compliance with charities and nonprofit laws," said Deputy Chief of Staff John Stiles. "We are also evaluating any possible effects on competition along with state and federal partners."

Josh Chilson is the news director at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. A Florence, S.D. native, Josh graduated with a journalism degree from South Dakota State University. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and videographer, and most recently as managing editor for Dakota News Now. Josh is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.
C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture