Disappointment is in the air. The unfortunate political theater performed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler have injured Fairview Health Services.

Fairview, in one form or another, has been in Minneapolis for more than 10 years. It is an outstanding organization, run by caring, compassionate people. The business of health care is very serious and is treated so by the leaders at Fairview (a $3 billion health care system). In their efforts to remain a viable organization, they were most appropriately considering an option to collaborate or possibly join with another large system, Sanford Health.

We all have witnessed the short and very public discussion and demise of Fairview’s attempt to remain a competitive medical system.

Allina Health system came very close to inking a deal with Sanford in the last year. Why was there no uproar from Swanson? I suspect she was unaware at the time and so it was not a platform she could use to her advantage. In any case, Sanford as a business partner seemed pretty good to Allina (Sanford pulled out).

Can Sanford be as dangerous to Minnesota’s health care system as it has been portrayed? Not likely, if you consider Allina’s willingness to work with Sanford.

As opposed to Allina’s discussions, Swanson and Kaler did know about the Fairview-­Sanford talks. Why? When Fairview paid $87 million to purchase the university hospital to bail out its indebted system (slated to lose $50 million per year for the next three years), it became entangled in the university educational system.

This involves the U’s Board of Regents, who are intimately connected to the state of Minnesota. It is that connection, I believe, that could have allowed information that would have been private in another organization to be shared with Kaler and Swanson. With this information about the Fairview-Sanford discussion, they were able to derail Fairview’s possible business venture before it even got started.

How ironic and ridiculous that this University of Minnesota, which couldn’t manage hospital finances back in the 1990s, just made a play to purchase the seven-hospital Fairview Health System. The fact that there was a hearing to air the danger Sanford posed to the U and the state is politics at its best.

The current silence and lack of interest in Fairview from the university is now deafening. It was political gamesmanship. He won. Lori Swanson got to play the savior rescuing us from the evil empire in South Dakota.

Do you really know anything about Sanford? I know the people who work for it are like me and you, and have admirable goals and seem excellent citizens in the health care world. Go to Sanford’s website, find research, read and be sad that it won’t be our partner.

It was not in Minnesota’s interest to interfere with Fairview, which has provided excellent care for more than 100 years. They are left injured by this charade.


James LaRoy is a physician and past chief of staff at Fairview Southdale Hospital.