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Kaler didn’t attend Sunday’s hearing, but members of Swanson’s staff asked U general counsel Mark Rotenberg whether Kaler’s recent proposal to take over all the assets and liabilities of Fairview was meant as a pre-emptive strike against a marriage between Fairview and Sanford. Fairview, Minnesota’s second-largest health care provider, has controlled the U hospital and clinics since 1997. The hospital affiliation is central to the U’s academic health center, including the training of 70 percent of doctors in the state.
“It’s fair to say that Sanford’s efforts have focused the minds of many people on what is at stake,” Rotenberg said.
He said the university supports the attorney general’s careful examination of the effects of a Sanford-Fairview merger and that U executives will work over the next several weeks to gain clarity on whether some new alignment with Sanford was worth exploring.
Chuck Mooty, Fairview’s chairman, testified that there is merit in the university exploring a deal involving Sanford, partly because changes in the health care industry are demanding consolidation to stay competitive. But Mooty said he would not force a merger with Sanford onto the U.
“If he [Kaler] would like to veto the deal, that would be the end of it,” Mooty said.
Moratorium on gift talks
Rotenberg had opened the university’s portion of the hearing by saying Kaler had imposed a moratorium on all discussions of charitable gifts that could create any question of a conflict of interest. The moratorium, he said, was to reassure the public that the process of health care merger talks “won’t be tainted in any way with gifts for football or athletics or anyone else.”
The moratorium would cover any potential gifts from Sanford, a wealthy U alumnus whom Kaler and the athletic department are openly courting for a major donation to improve the school’s sports training facilities.
Tom Fuller and Gary Printup, two men who received organ transplants at U hospitals, implored Swanson not to let a South Dakota company take over the university’s health care delivery system.
“Please don’t let the university hospitals be lost to an out-of-state institution,” said Fuller, a lung transplant survivor from New Brighton.
Tony Kennedy • 612-673-4213